Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: BYOD and the Consumerization of IT

BYOD on rise in Asia, but challenges remain

More Asian organizations are embracing IT consumerization by allowing staff to use their personal devices for work, but those resisting the move cite security and costs as main hurdles.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is popular in Asia-Pacific as many companies already allow their employees to use personal devices in the workplace. However, security and cost remain key obstacles for companies that do not practice BYOD, say industry observers.

Compared to their counterparts worldwide, more percentage of companies in Asia-Pacific allow employees to use personal computing devices in the workplace.
Compared to their counterparts worldwide, more percentage of companies in Asia-Pacific allow employees to use personal computing devices in the workplace.

Sharing findings from a recent study comissioned by the company, Kevin Wo, vice president at Avanade Singapore, said 72 percent of organizations in Asia-Pacific said the majority of their employees use personal computing devices in the workplace. The result is higher than the global average of 61 percent, he noted.

Delving deeper, Wo said 72 percent of respondents from both Singapore and Malaysia said their employees bring their own devices to work while 61 percent of Australian organizations do so.

Ng Tock Hiong, manager for Systems Engineering at Cisco Singapore, said BYOD adoption in Asia is "doing very well". He pointed to an Ovum study which found that more than 70 percent of multinational corporations (MNCs) in Asia-Pacific are implementing policies internally to support approved employee-owned devices.

Consumers in Asia are familiar with juggling multiple devices in their daily lives. Ng cited findings from the Cisco Connected World Technology Report which found that 89 percent of consumers in Asia use between 1 and 3 work or personal devices in a typical day to e-mail, send text messages, surf the Web and post updates on social media sites.

Wo noted that globally, 71 percent of companies changed at least one business process to adapt to BYOD. These processes include IT management, sales and marketing, human resources (HR) and customer services.

Using Avanade as an example, he said the company changed the original definition of "workstation" within the company policy to "devices" as employees are using multiple devices including the desktop PC, laptop, tablet and smartphones.

Many of the companies surveyed saw positive effects of BYOD, including stronger sales, increased profits, greater agility and improved employee satisfaction, Wo added.

"Most of our employees are very mobile nowadays, and it makes sense for us to be able to tap on our corporate applications wherever we are," he said.

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For Jonathan Tan, who works in the IT industry, he said his company has moved its e-mail and other related services to the cloud via Google Apps. He said the BYOD system benefits both him and the company as he only requires one phone to access both personal and corporate apps.

Tan added that through phone subsidies, the company is able to save hardware cost and users like him are able to respond to work-related matters faster as they only have one device to manage.

A PR professional, who requested to remain anonymous, said while the company allows employees to access files from the shared drive through personal devices, they have to "go through hoops" to reach the files. As such, he prefers not to access the files through his personal devices because "it's not worth the hassle of setting up everything".

"My company does not promote a BYOD culture and we're still on a 'everyone gets a desktop' mentality," he said.

"Companies that do not promote a BYOD culture usually have very backward processes with their IT departments where you need 5 million forms to get something done on your PC, for example, when setting the default browser."

Security, cost, policy changes preventing BYOD
While the majority of the Asian companies surveyed have implemented BYOD, Wo acknowledged that some are still hesitant.

"From the organization's perspective, there are still concerns around data security and compliance .The increase in cost in managing multiple devices and platforms have also created a challenge for some," he said.

He added security remains one of the key challenges of BYOD but other roadblocks are equally significant. For example, companies might find they do not have time to train employees on BYOD-related security risks or find it difficult to implement policies to govern employee-owned devices.

Ng added that companies will need to invest in an infrastructure which enables a secure wireless environment, changes in policy framework and a change in corporate culture.

Even with BYOD policies in place, companies need to have the right tools and applications which run across multiple devices for employees to maximize the potential of BYOD, Ng added.