The discussion on whether mobile devices will be a viable form factor is over. The reality is that these devices are no longer on the fringes of corporate computing, but they have become important and impactful devices that should be viewed in the same way as PCs, laptops and notebooks.

While email and web access – data consumption – may still be the overwhelming use for these devices, over the next five years, creating and modifying content on these devices will expand, increasing the stature of mobile devices as productivity tools within the corporate landscape.

But, in all of these discussions, it seems that people have yet grasped the enormity of the change that needs to take place within IT management organisations. Take one moment and think back to the changes that occurred when we moved from centralised/mainframe computing to a decentralised model of distributed computing/mini computers.

It changed the entire ecosystem of data creation and sharing. It spawned new technologies and industries such as networking, caused convergence of technologies (data and voice networks), anointed new industry leaders (PCs, operating systems and applications) and gave rise to new ways of designing systems and applications (client/server, browser based, etc.). In short, it changed everything.

The same is happening now. The influx of mobile devices and the movement towards cloud computing has the potential to be a “forever forward” moment, where the changes that are being experienced now are forming the foundation as we move forward.

We need to accept that the corporate computing model that we have lived by for nearly 50 years has flip-flopped. More and more it is the workforce that determines device adoption and the interaction with and movement of data – not the corporation.

So, like the art of Jiu-Jitsu – as the smaller entity, the corporation must learn to successfully defend against a stronger force by using leverage and proper technique to MANAGE in this new world. So how exactly can IT look to manage (not CONTROL) this change?

One possible recommendation is to make one key change to your IT management orientation that reflects the reality of today’s IT environment.

Shift from device-centric to user-centric IT management model. The user is more empowered than ever before, accessing and downloading information from anywhere in the world – from multiple access points. IT needs to begin managing the user and delivering services to the user versus the devices.

As companies move to a virtualised and cloud computing model, a user-centric management approach is the only way organisations will be fully aware of the data accessibility points. Look for solutions that map data delivery not to a specific hardware asset, but first to the recipient and then the asset(s) that they are utilising.

This is especially true with mobility and the proliferation of mobile devices acting as a catalyst to accelerate this fundamental change in how IT provides service to our users. When reviewing mobile device management solutions and approaches, here are three things you should require:

Solutions That Manage At The User Level

Today when servicing the requests of corporate workers, IT must consider Nokia/Symbian, Research in Motion, Apple/iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Window 7 Mobile Series OS, to name a few. A study conducted by Kelton Research indicated that IT managers anticipate supporting about eight different mobile platforms or operating systems by the end of 2011.

So, IT will need to reorient itself from focusing on a device to focusing on the platform. At least in this way, you will get to the root of the tree in terms of managing devices, with the understanding that the vendors will deliver multiple devices, but hopefully a minimal amount of platforms.

Solutions That Easily Integrate With Existing Services

Two aspects are important: first, does an endpoint management system integrate with your existing centralised applications. Second, does it leverage native controls to extend endpoint management functions (such as wiping device data).

Tools that do both not only provide immediate improvements in control and security, but also evolve along with the centralised application. For example, when RIM adds control and recovery functionality to their enterprise offering, the endpoint management suite gains (or can easily be enhanced) to automate those functions.

Mobile Management Solutions That Provide Tiered Functionality

First and foremost, provide yourself with the capability to quickly lock down any and all devices that are assigned to a user and then remotely wipe devices that are out-of-policy, non-compliant, active threats, lost or stolen or at the time of a user’s employment termination.

But more importantly, to manage all endpoints, you need to understand the issues and have a solution that AUTOMATES the management of endpoints. Before the mobile device tipping point, the average IT department had one staff member for every 27 enterprise employees, according to Workforce Management.

The ratio has not improved with the growth in mobile devices. Stated differently, your IT teams are required to manage more devices without more resources. Therefore, automation is the only way to possibly manage the ever changing nature of smartphones and mobile devices.

We are at the doorstep of a profound change in our business. Mobility, and all the change that comes with it, has the ability to change business models, processes, customer behaviours and market leaders. There will be pain at the beginning, but the long-term benefits will shape things in ways we’ve never imagined. Companies that figure out how to incorporate mobile solutions effectively into their current ecosystems will be the ones that come out ahead.