Many companies are trying to prevent the BYOD revolution. In this case, BYOD means “Bring Your Own Devices,” where your employees are connecting their own stuff to the corporate network. This all started late in the last millennium with some employees using their own laptops in order to work from home or on the road. Back then, some companies had not figured out that if their employees could work on an airplane, in a hotel, or a customer’s office they could be more productive. For many people, spending a day at the home office can be much more productive than fighting the constant interruptions that can occur in the corporate office. Even when companies issued laptops, they usually did it with the same four or five year update schedule they used with desktops. Back then, a four-year old laptop was fairly useless as it probably did not support the latest versions of software that corporate IT mandated. Most companies have figured this out, with many going to a “subscription” mechanism where the company pays the employee so much a year and gives the employee’s the authority to get whatever the employee wants. The employee still has the responsibility to adhere to corporate security and IT standards. In most cases, this is a real win-win situation. The corporation still controls the expense and the employee has the needed tools. Currently, most company IT organizations have figured out how to secure the data and access with laptops.
Then along come smart phones and tablets. As I wrote back in August, the laptop is likely to completely become just another size for the interface model developed by RIM, Apple, Android and others for the “telephone.” It was in 2003 that Research in Motion released the first smartphone Blackberry as a Personal Digital Assistant. RIM had used the name “Blackberry” back in 1999 with a two-way pager in Germany. In a decade, the concept went from “who needs that?” to “how can you live without one?”
Most companies react very slowly to innovation driven bottom-up by the employees. IT departments especially are very reluctant to give away any control. This is with very good reason, as the horror stories of lost or stolen data, or worse passwords from unsecured smart phones are many. Yet the pressure from employees and especially senior management can’t be ignored, nor can the benefit to the company from allowing their people to be always connected.
Cisco Systems recently surveyed 1,500 IT managers and executives in the Canada, France, Germany, Spain, U.K, and U.S. Some of those results:
- 48% of global survey respondents say their company would never authorize employees to bring their own devices to the office for work.
- 57% of respondents say some employees use personal devices for work without consent. In the US, it is 64%, which is the highest of any nation.
- 51% of survey participants say the number of employees bringing their devices to work is on the rise.
- 75% of IT managers in the U.S. say new rules are needed with regard to security and device usage.
- 64% of survey participants say access to company servers and lost or stolen devices are “huge problems” caused by using personal devices for work.
- 44% of IT managers say dealing with personal-device issues distracts from other important projects, their “real job.”
- 48% of all IT managers worldwide feel access to company applications should be restricted for all employees.
- Globally among IT departments, there are three smartphone requests from employees for every tablet request.
- 21% of the workforce in the U.S. requests a tablet from IT – tied with France for first worldwide.
However, viewed from the other side, Symantec surveyed over 6,200 IT managers world-wide about their plans and attitude around mobile devices. Some of those results:
- 73% of businesses have achieved increased efficiency through mobile computing.
- 59% of businesses already run line-of-business applications on mobile devices.
- 51% run sales force automation or CRM tools on mobile devices.
- 63% run task and project management applications on mobile devices.
- 71% of businesses have plans to deploy custom mobile apps in the near future.
- 66% have implemented, are implementing or are discussing rolling out private app stores where employees can get supported apps.
- 48% indicated that mobility is somewhat to extremely challenging, with 41% identifying it as one of the top three risks by 41 percent of organizations, above Web 2.0, virtualization and cloud computing.
- 71% of organizations reported that they at least break even on the risks versus the rewards of mobile deployments.
As with Social Media, companies are not going to be able to stop the use of mobile devices. Even if companies decide to embrace the concept by providing employees with “approved” devices, employees will still BYOD. Matching the variety of form factors, capabilities, connection options along with your employee’s personal preferences is an impossible task. Your employees also need to be connected to their family and friends which influences device choice. If IT imposes too many restrictions it will just increase the number of employees who decide not to care about the company’s policy, which will lead to even more security dangers.
Those IT managers that understand that they can’t stop this revolution, and instead embrace it and meet the challenge successfully will position their companies, and themselves, to thrive. “Mobile workers and virtual workspaces are here to stay,” says Tom Puorro, director of product management, IPCBU, Cisco Systems. “But so are the demands on IT to continue to ensure enterprise-grade security, manageability and interoperability. IT leaders are a critical component in unleashing innovation and enabling organizations to take advantage of the next wave of business growth and opportunity.”
Mobile devices are critical to an organization’s success. “We’ve crossed the tipping point in mobile adoption and mobility in business,” says CJ Desai, senior vice president of the endpoint and mobility group at Symantec. “What’s startling is how quickly that’s happened. With PCs we’ve built quite an ecosystem to support enterprise infrastructure that allows us to be productive and secure. The problem with mobile is that it has come up so fast that people are trying how to get from zero to sixty in no time and have that entire ecosystem there and ready.”
Mobile computing is inherently part of the Cloud, and can take advantage of the location independence and reliability of the Cloud. When you take data off of the laptop and put it in the Cloud, as most Software as a Service (SaaS) provide, you make the loss or capture of the device less critical; there is not much data there to steal. With standard office word processing, spread sheet and presentation capabilities available as SaaS, documents can be accessed from almost any device from anywhere. Your traveling employees can carry just a small smart phone, then pick up a tablet from the rental car company or hotel, and access the presentation just updated on another continent.
The last word:
Expect to see the rise of MaaS (Mobility as Service). Companies like Centrify Corporation are announcing Cloud-based services to allow an enterprise to centrally secure and manage mobile devices, in most cases using existing data center access management services, skill sets and processes. If your company tries to stay in the pre-mobile world, it will find it very lonely and not very profitable.
Keep your sense of humor.