BYO tech? Three ways business is getting it all wrong

Consumer tech is being hamstrung by heavy-handed controls...

Consumer tech is being hamstrung by heavy-handed controls...

Smartphones at work

Businesses are being too heavy-handed with the way they seek to control personal devices at workPhoto: Shutterstock

The days of the standard work-issue laptop really do seem to be numbered as businesses let staff use their own computers and gadgets in the workplace.

However, in the rush to adopt bring-your-own tech, businesses are placing too many restrictions on how personal devices can be used at work and leaving staff to pick up the bill for business costs, according to Anthony Vigneron, collaboration services global manager at global law firm Clifford Chance.

Vigneron has been studying how the firm can let its staff use the same device at home and at work, while still protecting corporate information and keeping costs under control. He estimates that about 10 per cent of Clifford Chance's 7,000 staff share the same device at home and work.

Speaking to silicon.com at the recent RIM annual customer conference in London, Vigneron outlined three ways businesses get it wrong when it comes to letting staff use personal devices at work.

1. Get out of the sandbox

Businesses are often advised to provide personal devices with secure access to corporate systems using sandboxed virtual machines. These sandboxed machines allow remote access to corporate apps and data via a virtual desktop that is run from the business' datacentre.

Vigneron said the problem with sandboxed virtual machines is they provide a jarring experience for the user, forcing them to stop using the device's native operating system and instead obliging them to access the corporate system through a foreign interface. Much better, he argues, to let users access corporate data and apps from their device's own OS.

"Trying to deliver applications within some kind of sandbox is not what users want. That's not consumerisation, that's just another way of providing the same apps on different hardware," he said.

"People want to use the native applications. So if they've made the choice for a BlackBerry, they want to have all the applications delivered through their BlackBerry, or the same for their Android or their iOS interface. They don't want to have to log in through some other system.

"The business should be able to control some...

...of the applications staff use but you don't want all those things inside another application. They have to work natively on the OS - whatever that is."

At Clifford Chance, the IT team is using RIM's BlackBerry Balance technology, which allows staff to access native corporate and personal apps on the same BlackBerry device while distinguishing between personal and corporate apps and data, and applying different security restrictions to them.

2. Don't keep work and private life separate

Vigneron argues that the point at which work life ends and private life begins is becoming increasingly blurred. So it doesn't make sense to treat them as two separate entities.

By not allowing workers to merge their work and home calendars, contacts and emails, businesses are imposing an artificial distinction on their staff, he said.

"Today there's a dynamic balance between work and life - I'm never fully at work, I'm never fully at home," he said.

"You do want some separation but you don't want it to the point where if I want to get my email, I have to go through one icon for my work email and another for my private email. That's not how people want to work. People want the choice of being able to work with the same interface."

Again, Clifford Chance uses BlackBerry Balance to allow staff to merge personal and corporate email, calendars and contacts if they wish, while the data is still stored separately in the back end.

3. Don't let mobile phone operators rip off your staff

Letting staff use their personal smartphone while working abroad might seem a neat way for them to avoid lugging two phones around but they might be in for an unpleasant shock when they get their phone bill.

Vigneron said as more staff choose to use personal devices at work, the amount mobile phone operators charge consumers for data needs to come down to match corporate tariffs.

"We don't want to tell our users to just go and buy from this operator and then they suddenly find themselves with a £5,000 monthly phone bill," he said.

"For companies to allow for consumerisation, the price has to get to some kind of equivalent of what we can get as a corporate.

"We've got to find a way for the operators to allow for a cap on charges and offer some fixed fee - the same way they do for a corporate account. They're not doing that at the moment."

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