Mobile technology and the consumerization of IT are forcing the most radical change to companies’ IT strategies and business plans in decades. The demand for bring your own device (BYOD) policies is rapidly growing momentum, and it looks like it is to become the typical environment for the vast majority of businesses.
According to a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing corporate devices to workers by 2016. In fact, BYOD policies are slowly becoming a requirement rather than an option.
The consumerization of IT
There is no doubt that mobile technology has transformed and become central to our personal lives. It is not surprising, therefore, that this adoption and demand is now infiltrating the working environment. With the plethora of smartphones, tablets and ultrabooks available, with widely accessible Wi-Fi connections, users have become accustomed to being always-on and highly mobile.
It has irrevocably changed the way that people communicate and use technology, providing them with the freedom to work anytime, anywhere. Additionally, with many devices often being newer and more advanced than those at work, and customised to how the owner prefers to use it, it stands to reason that many workers want to use their own personalised devices to perform their jobs.
It’s not only consumer hardware that is shaping the office environment. Social media software and applications are evolving at a rapid pace and users are now demanding and expecting the same familiarity and functionality from the software that they use at work – the same look, feel and operation.
App developers and software vendors have recognised this and are building custom apps pertinent to the business and developing business programs that replicate social media tools. Even Apple included a plethora of enterprise-friendly features in its latest operating system, iOS7.
New business opportunities
It is widely accepted that adopting a BYOD policy can have an extremely positive impact on a business, creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, improving engagement, increasing productivity, as well as reducing or avoiding costs. The flexibility and portability of mobile devices can help transform a business’ workforce, enabling it to become radically more responsive than those of past generations.
BYOD also opens up the possibility for the IT department to set up and shape the future IT landscape of the company – an opportunity that hasn’t really been possible since the early 90s. Initially this could be quite daunting, depending on the size of the company and the range of software that it uses, but it provides IT with the ability to restructure the IT environment and to make it more streamlined and future-proof. By shifting device ownership to employees, IT also eases its burden for endpoint procurement.
Many companies are also adopting desktop virtualisation strategies, using products like Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View, to deliver secure virtualised desktop, web or SaaS applications, or complete desktop environments, to a variety of devices. This not only enables businesses to create a cloud-based infrastructure for remote workers, it also opens up the possibility of ‘hot desking’ in the workplace.
This can free up valuable space and can cut overhead costs significantly. However, the concept won’t work in environments where employees are expected to be in the office most of the time. With a BYOD policy in place, workers are also no longer solely reliant on Windows devices for VDI as it enables more people to use Macs, iPads and iPhones.
Making BYOD secure
The one real major concern that does undoubtedly crop up and worries IT departments is the issue of security. With devices connected to company networks, providing access to large amounts of sensitive data, the fear factor for IT is how to actually manage all these devices and apps without having complete control.
However, with strict policies enforced and the right tools in place, such as mobile device management (MDM) software, and more commonly Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), there is no reason that companies shouldn’t embrace BYOD and benefit from the freedom and opportunities that it offers.
MDM suites provide IT managers with the ability to protect company systems by adding security levels to connecting devices, such as encryption, passwords or device locks. EMM suites take this a step further by managing the applications that are installed and running on employees’ mobile devices.
IT managers also need to make sure that the existing network infrastructure is secure and that any data repositories and collaboration tools, such as Citrix ShareFile or Microsoft SharePoint, which make it possible for employees to work remotely, are included in their security plans.
At the end of the day, users want to use their own devices to access data and all their enterprise apps in a way that suits them, and businesses want to make their employees more productive yet remain secure and compliant. Adopting a secure, well thought out BYOD strategy will ultimately provide the freedom demanded by employees whilst ensuring control and security in a way that’s simple to manage.