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When it comes to saving costs, improving employees’ productivity or job satisfaction, the concept of bringing your own devices has surprisingly done well

Over the past few years, use of personal mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, notepad and others has become popular. There is a growing demand from employees for anywhere, anytime access to corporate resources using their personal mobile devices leading to a fundamental shift in the enterprise computing and mobility model — corporate data and applications on private devices. This is certainly at odds with the traditional IT models of policy based device usage, controlled provisioning, and clear ownership of data, device and applications. With the proliferation of mobile devices with more storage and processing power, the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon has certainly become common in many workplaces.

A recent study by Cisco on BYOD: A Global Perspective found that 89 per cent of respondent companies are empowering their employees to bring and use their own preferred devices for official work. By implementing BYOD based IT policy, enterprises are able to enhance the experience, improve employee productivity, and reduce the cost of client hardware procurement to some extent.

BYOD embraces not only smartphones but there are many devices like tablets, laptops, storage devices (especially flash drives) that employees may bring to the organisation.

Cisco IBSG’s latest survey for the six countries shows that China will be on the top of all the countries by 2016, with 166 million BYOD devices, followed by the US and India at 108 million and 76 million respectively.

In recent years, the BYOD phenomenon is leading to major transformations with significant impact on enterprise processes and IT services. To improve personal productivity, users (in all types of organisations) are bringing their own devices at work and prefer these devices to access corporate applications and data along with using them for personal purposes. As a result, the ratio of devices per person has increased from one to many devices and throughout the day user is connected with corporate network with their laptops as well as smartphones and tablets.

BYOD affects both employers and employees, so it would be worthwhile to consider the key drivers and challenges from both the perspectives. Making BYOD decisions involves careful scrutiny of multiple aspects that affect both the employers and employees. Some of the key aspects include — for employers — productivity, reduce costs, ensuring confidentiality of data (employers); for employees — free work culture, consistent experiences and flexibility to use their own devices.

In order to support and accept BYOD, enterprises need to make changes in their enterprise IT and culture. They need to develop device-neutral service model, enterprise mobility management platforms and data encryption technology to deliver the BYOD environment with greater security on both IT-owned and employee-owned devices.

As confirmed by various organisations and as per the report from Cisco IBSG 2012, by adopting the BYOD, enterprises and users have gained three major benefits — productivity, job satisfaction and cost savings.

Improved productivity: By empowering employees to easily and securely access corporate data on their own device whenever they need, productivity levels will naturally increase.

Job satisfaction: Users have greater flexibility and freedom in terms of device and work-hours and thus, increased job satisfaction.

Cost: With BYOD, enterprises will have huge cost benefits in terms of OPEX and CAPEX, including client device acquisition, maintenance, hardware and software licensing (in some scenarios).

According to a recent Gartner report: Employees are behaving more like consumers, demanding a wider choice of devices, exploiting consumer devices and applications from app stores, and adopting new strategies such as “bring your own” IT. As a result, the distinctions between a person’s role as an employee and as a consumer are more blurred than ever. With the consumerisation of IT and advanced technologies in the mobile, social and cloud services, some major BYOD trends seen in 2013 based on consumer behaviour, to reckon with, are:

l Rapid growth in remote and mobile workforce and they are demanding access to corporate data and business applications on their personal devices anytime, anywhere.

l One-to-many devices trend has been seen that users are carrying multiple devices (both types and form factors) with them — such as laptop, tablet and smartphone.

l “Choose your own device” (CYOD) model has emerged where eligible users are given a choice of devices that they can use for official work.

l UYOD (use your own device) is a similar concept and can be considered in BYOD. In UYOD, employees are working and accessing corporate resources at home on their devices using VPN, but never bring those devices to office.

l Desktop virtualisation or desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) approach is getting increasingly popular and better together with BYOD trends.

l Cloud-based application is another way of allowing corporate data access on personal devices anytime and anywhere. Users just need an internet connection and the compatible browser to access business data on their mobile devices or any device for that matter.

l There are many organisations that are appreciating BYOD model and providing trainings to employees to make them aware of the BYOD concept, related policies and encouraging them to use mobile devices effectively.

l Enterprises have started developing multiple mobile device management polices to address the different needs of the geographically dispersed workforce.

Diversity in BYOD needs presents the biggest concern “corporate data security” in front of all the enterprises and IT departments. It massively increases IT responsibilities to address this concern. As per various studies, security is the top concern.

Security: As there is no “one-size-fits-all” policy for securing the corporate data on mobile devices, it becomes the major IT challenge to ensure the security of corporate data and their customer data as well.

Support: Due to the proliferation of smart devices, it is difficult for IT departments to support multiple devices, platforms, and applications while maintaining the privileged data secure. There is tremendous pressure on IT departments to provide service and support for all the employees’ devices and applications of choice.

Compliance: Another major concern is to address the regulatory compliance needs. Every day a new device is released in the market, so it is a big challenge for IT departments to develop a device agnostic BYOD policy.

Access: To ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to authorised users is again a concern. At the same time, how enterprise IT can terminate the access to corporate information at any time without wiping the personal data in case of an employee exit or in cases where mobile device is lost or stolen, is another big concern.

Device trust: In case of remote worker (teleworker), they are accessing corporate data using VPN connection. However, it is difficult to ensure that the home device is trusted to VPN and there is a possibility at home that an unauthorised person can access the sensitive corporate information.

Storage device: Along with smartphones and tablets, users are carrying their own storage devices (flash drives) to transfer data. Now, this is another IT challenge to ensure that these devices should not break company compliance and leak sensitive data.

BYOD is not going away, whether organisations are ready to embrace it or not. Mobility should not be viewed as a threat, but should be considered as an opportunity that can bring far-reaching improvements in the way organisations function.

It is imperative for enterprises to recognise this trend and take proactive steps to embrace BYOD. With BYOD, organisations can allow and encourage the employee-led innovation to find innovative ways of accomplishing official work on user’s preferred platforms and devices. zz

(The writer is associate principal,

technology consulting, Advaiya)

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