Are employees bringing their own devices into the enterprise or is it really working the other way around?
It’s probably a little bit of both, according to the experts, but regardless of what’s driving it, the bring your own device (BYOD)
“Since the floodgate has opened, IT organizations have faced a very different challenge than just a couple of years ago,” said Lubor Ptacek, vice president of strategic marketing at Waterloo, Ontario-based enterprise content management company OpenText. “[Homogeneity in IT] is out of the window today, because now everyone has a different device and they have no choice but to support them. There are a lot of new challenges and disruption in how IT operates.”
The disruption, initially caused by the rise of the iPad and now exacerbated by the proliferation of smartphones, is forcing IT departments to have frank discussions about how they will work in the future and how they will maintain security in a world where homogeneity is becoming impossible. Users demand access to work materials on their various productivity devices and a lack of that turns employees off inside the company and out.
But disruption isn’t all bad, according to David Edelheit, who sees both sides benefitting from a BYOD strategy and opportunity for business benefits in the future.
“I actually think it’s both a want and a need. To the employer, they are seeing this as an opportunity to start lowering costs,” said Edelheit, principal with New York-based consulting group Pricewaterhouse Coopers. He added that employers also foresee productivity gains from employees having their personal device be their work device as well. “The employees are seeing it as an advantage that they can now have the latest and greatest technology.”
Edelheit receives phone calls each day from companies seeking advice on adopting a BYOD strategy. Moreover, the use of a personal device in a business setting is becoming a big sell for top college graduates entering the job market.
“There is a fear that exists out there today. [Companies] want to make sure they’re recruiting the best and the brightest,” Edelheit said. “They’re asking college grads on recruiting days, ‘What makes you very interested in a firm?’”
According to Edelheit, the answer companies are getting is, yes, technology matters, regardless of what industry graduates are looking to enter or what skill set they possess.
Ptacek said about 50% of the organizations he works with are open to a BYOD strategy and that when enterprises do adopt it, it’s often driven by the executive team.
BYOD creates mobile device management challenges
While letting employees bring their own devices into the enterprise has its advantages, it does create mobile device management challenges for IT departments in development, security and integration.
“Almost all our customers have a plan to build some mobile application or they have already done it,” Ptacek said. “It happens even in the B2B type of space. That’s a reality today.”
While most organizations budget to build these applications for Apple’s iOS, Ptacek said that there often isn’t any built-in budget for the multiple flavors of Android, never mind the other mobile operating systems. He said it’s important for enterprises to utilize mobile application platforms that can publish and deliver to all devices as opposed to developing for just one, which is what IT had likely been doing before.
Vendors have stepped into the integration world in some capacities. OpenText offers a mobile application platform and startup Glide offers cross-platform integration for content management, allowing users to access documents on any OS through one portal.
“The whole point of cloud computing is to have quick-sharing efficiencies,” said Donald Leka, chairman and CEO of TransMedia, Glide’s owner.
The security issues affecting BYOD aren’t unique to it and fall in line with the same issues affecting cloud computing and the mobile revolution – perceived insecurity vs. reality. For Ptacek, it ultimately comes down the type of leadership at an enterprise.
“Sometimes you have a CEO who is outgoing and forward-looking and likes the latest gadget, and sometime you have a CEO whose secretary types all his letters.”