Aussie CIOs dip their toes into BYOD

Australian companies are working out how best to allow the use of personal devices in the workplace, but haven't yet implemented full solutions.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor

Few Australian companies have escaped the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend that is sweeping through Australian organisations, although their implementations have as yet been tentative.

The trend has been spawned by the consumerisation of technology, with low prices meaning that many employees now having better and newer technology for personal use than they do for business. The choice of technology has also become a personal matter, where our choice of device says something about who we are.

Employees wishing to express themselves and gain the productivity benefits of using the same devices in the business and the home, have demanded that they be able to use their own equipment. Some say that employees will even choose one business over another, based on their BYOD policy.

However, this has caused problems for IT departments, who want to be able to keep corporate information secure. What happens if a personal phone, with business data on it, is lost? The IT team will want to wipe the phone. But what does that mean for the employee's personal data? It too will be lost.

We decided to find out how many companies are really touched by this trend, asking our CIO jury what their stance on BYOD.

The question asked was:

What is your company's stance on bring-your-own-device (BYOD)?

The possible responses were: banned, limited support or full support.

Of the first 12 CIOs who answered, 10 responded with limited support and two responded with full support.

Some companies were keeping BYOD use unofficial. De Bortoli Wines CIO Bill Robertson said that although employees might use their own devices, the company didn't officially support it.

"We don't officially support BYOD, though this position may eventually change (for mobile devices at least). As we continue to expand our VPN services, it may become a moot point anyway," he said.

Another CIO, who didn't want to be named, was in the same boat.

"Corporate resources are able to be accessed from BYOD devices, but no policy as yet," he said. "The company is trying to understand the balance between the incentive of having staff remain responsible for their own devices, and the impact on security and support."

Others were at early stages of their BYOD journey.

"We're still testing the waters," BUPA Aged Care CIO Paul Berryman said. "We've started with mobile phones and tablets, but haven't moved to laptops just yet. We haven't ticked all the boxes on the infrastructure setup for a full BYOD offering."

Hume Rural Health Alliance operations manager Chris Reeve said that he had received a number of requests to support devices, so was currently trialling Citrix Xen desktop.

"Hopefully, allowing us to control the environment within the Citrix Receiver, without compromising or modification to the user's device," he said.

Queensland Department of Education and Training Corporate Services Division CIO David O'Hagan said that he was also testing virtual desktop and remote management tools to support BYOD in the future.

Brendan McHugh, Liquor Marketing Group's general manager of IT, said his biggest challenge in getting his company's fledgling BYOD policy off the ground was the IT team. IT teams can feel threatened by BYOD policies, because they can take away some of their power.

Yet David Beveridge, who acts as CIO for a number of smaller firms, said that the IT team had a very important role to play in BYOD.

"I think it is important to educate users on the importance of software updates, not just on BYOD, but on home computers as well; so I encourage users to seek advice with all their devices.

"The more you push them away, the more they will go off on their own, often wasting company time doing things we don't approve of."

One thing that CUA CIO David Gee did not approve of was jailbreaking devices. CUA had full support for BYOD, he said, but only if employee phones weren't jailbroken.

Given that White House cybersecurity advisor Howard Schmidt has also said that companies shouldn't let their employees use jailbroken phones, Gee is in good company.

The White House's involvement in the trend shows that even government, typically slow movers on new technology, is getting on board. It's interesting that none of the CIOs we polled have told employees that they can't use their own devices at work. It seems that BYOD has well and truly taken hold, it's now up to CIOs to enable it.

Thank you to all of our ZDNet Australia jury participants. The CIO jury for this question, comprised:

  • Paul Berryman — CIO, BUPA Aged Care

  • David Beveridge — acting CIO of multiple SMBs

  • Craig Columbus — CIO, Russell McVeagh

  • Fiona Floyd — CIO, Suncorp Life

  • David Gee — CIO, CUA

  • David Houslip — CIO, Cancer Council Queensland

  • Brendan McHugh — general manager, IT, Liquor Marketing Group

  • David O'Hagan — CIO, Queensland Department of Education and Training, Corporate Services Division

  • Chris Reeve — operations manager, Hume Rural Health Alliance

  • Bill Robertson — CIO, De Bortoli Wines

  • Michael Tomkins — CTO, Fox Sports

  • Anonymous.

  • If you would like to be part of our CIO jury, contact us at ciojury@cbsinteractive.com. More details can also be found here.

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