Navigating the BYOD wave - is your business protected?

A new environment of employee-owned devices now means that work gear is in the hands of everyone from the mailroom up to the C-suite.

The widespread "Bring Your Own Device" trend has created anxiety for many IT managers over the last few years. The rapid shift from mostly corporate-liable BlackBerry devices assigned to knowledge workers (and tightly managed via Blackberry Enterprise Services (BES)) to a new environment of consumer-oriented smartphones and tablets now means that sophisticated devices are in the hands of everyone from the mailroom up to the C-suite.

Leading analyst firms claim that mobile devices are expected to comprise 40 percent or more of all enterprise devices by 2015, as mobility now plays a central role in job productivity. The latest twist on the trend is that employees are now using mobile devices for a hybrid of enterprise and personal reasons--resulting in serious security and cost management implications. IT organizations need to follow key best practices to mitigate these risks by establishing programs and policies that productively support hybrid use of mobile devices while maintaining a protected and cost efficient enterprise mobile environment.

Set and enforce clear corporate mobile policies
While every organization has individual dynamics that must be addressed in its corporate mobile policy, the cornerstone of any successful policy is a clear and realistic governance plan and the ability to monitor and enforce adherence. The days of cracking the whip to ensure full corporate liability over devices are gone, so today’s managers must implement a moderate approach by providing the flexibility that users want while maintaining key security and cost controls through technology.

Among the host of hybrid device use issues is the co-mingling of both sensitive corporate and personal data. For example, a manager may have next quarter’s corporate earnings projections and their child’s ballet recital video stored on a personally acquired iPhone. If the device is lost or stolen—or the employee is terminated from the company—how can the organization prevent a data breach? One solution is to establish policies and Mobile Device Management (MDM) technology for accessing secure corporate data via mobile devices. Regardless of whether the employee or company owns the device, the company can compartmentalize personal and corporate data through the use of data containers. That way, if a company chooses to remotely wipe or lock-down the smartphone through its MDM program, only the corporate data will be erased.

Establish 24/7 mobile Help Desk services
Employees grappling with issues ranging from device selection and initial setup to more serious problems like data recovery and malfunctioning apps need immediate access to well-trained support staff with knowledge on the latest array of devices and software on the market. As this specialized skill set and constant availability are difficult to achieve cost-effectively as an in-house function, many organizations are turning to professional mobile help desk services with around-the-clock support and multi-language support.

Mobile help desk representatives act as an intermediary with mobile carriers on a global scale and perform remote support for common problems, e.g., reset passwords, unlock phones, troubleshoot email and app problems as well as help enforce a streamlined corporate mobile app environment. For example, a pharmaceutical company recently rolled out iPads to 500 executives and reps, many of which call on doctors’ offices on a daily basis to demonstrate their products’ benefits through brief presentations.

Understanding the criticality of presenting the latest data in each and every meeting—including updated market statistics, product dosage information and pricing guides—the company’s outsourced help desk remotely pushes the latest versions of reporting and sales data, software tools as well as corporate presentations, to its reps’ iPads to maintain high quality control across the organization’s full mobile environment.

Monitor usage and track call detail reporting
With global telecom costs going through the roof, proactively tracking corporate-liable mobile voice and data plans while ensuring proper reimbursement for individual-liable mobile users is essential for any corporation. This means using a telecom expense management (TEM) solution to automatically check incoming invoices for errors, alert managers to odd patterns of usage and ensure that anyone traveling abroad isn’t incurring excessive charges due to automatic data syncing, etc. In addition, employee usage can be aligned to optimal voice and data plans with a focus on managing costs. It also provides a means to make certain that corporate-liable employees are using their data plans appropriately, e.g., accessing corporate info or webinars rather than downloading games.

The trend of employees using mobile devices for both personal and business reasons can prove valuable if key protections are put in place. By establishing comprehensive mobile policies, a strong help desk available 24/7 and proper voice and data usage monitoring, IT managers can empower employees to become more effective while instituting a secure and streamlined environment for all corporate data residing on any employee’s device. Mobility is no longer the future – it is here, and now organizations need to proactively manage it.

John Colbert is the Senior Director of Global Telecom Expense Management (TEM) Managed Services at Emptoris, an IBM Company. He has extensive experience in TEM, business intelligence and enterprise performance management software and services. For more information, please visit


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