There are two main schools of thought out there in the industry concerning BYOD: the BYOD school argues that it is inevitably the way forward across the enterprise; the Not to BYOD school forecasts that BYOD is not as much of a good thing as perhaps originally anticipated, bringing with it security, cost and data management issues.
The Aberdeen Group recently weighed into the argument with some research that found that on average, a company with 1,000 mobile devices spends an extra $170,000 per year when they use a BYOD approach.
It looks like a real dilemma for CIOs, but I believe the technology is here for CIOs to choose a pragmatic deployment strategy in order to pace their adoption of BYOD, based on their individual business needs and user roles. CIOs must weigh up the pros and cons of implementing a BYOD approach, the costs versus employee needs, productivity, company culture, business requirements and security.
First, the pros and cons are not always as they seem. Let’s look at the generational differences. As the so-called 'Generation Z' enters the workforce, it's been widely believed that they will be the ones to introduce their own smartphones and tablets into the workplace.
But in fact, a recent study completed by Computacenter found that 'Generation Z' is far less enthusiastic about using personal devices in the workplace than CIOs are. Less than half of the young people questioned believed that personal devices make them more productive at work, while almost 70 per cent of senior IT decision makers believed it did.
Then let’s look at what each employee does within the enterprise, and whether or not they need BYOD to better do their job.
Often, if not in a customer-facing role, employees will not see any real gain in terms of productivity from BYOD. But when tablets are used in a retail environment or across a hospital, for example, it can hugely improve productivity and make the resolving of customer enquiries or patient health-checks much easier and time-efficient – something that is undoubtedly going to increase productivity and customer/patient satisfaction.
And then of course there are the cultural expectations. If we take a global company operating across three different geographies – South Africa, the UK and the UAE – cultural capital has to play a part in implementing a BYOD policy. In South Africa, CIOs and IT Managers have effectively been dealing with BYOD for years through employees using their own mobile devices with a work allowance. But in the UAE, it's only the top management that receives company devices. And if we compare this to the UK, a large number of us walk around with separate personal and work devices, segregating our communication.
So CIOs need to recognise the different cultures and expectations in different countries, and adapt their policies accordingly across the enterprise.
And now to costs. It's fair to say that, for CIOs, there can be significant advantages found in implementing a BYOD policy. Tablets are fairly durable – an aspect which IT managers particularly favour – and when ordered in bulk, tablets can have a relatively low corporate cost per unit, compared to laptops.
Whilst a BYOD policy does increase choice for every generation of employee – companies often feel they lose control over what happens to the device. This can lead to concerns over physical security, as tablets are easy to steal outside the workplace; increased risk and complexity for IT managers; increased management with staff moves, additions and changes and higher operational costs.
The level of multi-level security and device management required depends on business and user needs. For example, a school or university has relatively low management costs, no integrity check is needed and the data is the responsibility of the user, compared to a financial company where a full integrity check with web based authentication is needed for each individual user.
And of course, companies also need to take into consideration compliance and legal issues. Can employers legally monitor employee owned devices for data or policy infringement, improper time and resources utilisation, device usage policies etc?
By this time, the CIO must feel cornered by the demands of employees, CFOs, CTOs, HR directors to name but a few. CIOs need to shift the focus of BYOD adoption away from purely a cost perspective, and also look at productivity gains in each workplace, taking into account employee expectations, compliance issues and security implications.
I believe that our approach as vendors should meet whatever strategy CIOs are looking to implement, providing secure communication applications across multiple devices and cost effective infrastructure to support that choice, whether BYOD or not BYOD or a hybrid approach.
Network infrastructures are there to provide secure collaborative conversation applications on the employee's or employer’s device of choice – the same infrastructure that will integrate voice and data platforms and provide video.
Enterprises are then free to ensure optimal employee productivity based on those users that need BYOD and those that don’t.