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Philippine firms adopt wait-and-see on BYOD

While businesses in the Philippines are starting to consider bring-your-own-device tools, few have embraced the concept as security and the cost of managing data access remain top concerns.
Written by Melvin G. Calimag, Contributor

MANILA--While a vigorous push from IT vendors is driving the adoption of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) tools in other parts of the globe, companies in the Philippines are not as eager--at least not yet--to jump on this emerging trend.

Local market players told ZDNet that businesses in the Philippines were still monitoring developments in the BYOD space, preferring instead to wait for some compelling signs to convince them to take the plunge.

"Businesses in Philippines are starting to look at BYOD [and] there is a lot of interest in protecting [the] network from BYOD," said Jonathan Andresen, Asia-Pacific director of product marketing at IT security vendor Blue Coat.

Not too many organizations, however, are actually embracing the concept. With the exception of local subsidiaries of multinational companies (MNCs) which have followed the lead of their main offices, only a handful of homegrown enterprises appear to be employing BYOD in their corporate setup.

In fact, an attempt to identify an organization in the Philippines that has deployed a full BYOD strategy for this story proved futile. Even tech vendors that sell BYOD products and services also were unable to provide a customer reference.

A government-owned financial corporation, the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank), though, revealed it had rolled out a limited implementation of its own BYOD scheme. Alan Bornas, senior vice president and head of Landbank's technology management group, said in an interview the company now allows its employees to download an applet to access their corporate e-mail via their iOS and Android devices.

Bornas said: "We're not doing other transactions yet, especially financial transactions. We want to strike a balance between convenience in the use of these devices and confidentiality of data."

He said the bank is taking a cautious approach in its BYOD implementation since mobile phones and tablets can easily be lost in restaurants or airports, compromising its whole corporate network.

Firms must prep for inevitable BYOD trend

But for IT vendors advocating the adoption of BYOD tools, the explosion of personal gadgets is an undeniable trend which requires the implementation of such applications in the business environment.

"The growth of mobility is indisputable, and CIOs cannot afford to underestimate its impact on their businesses," said Nitin Joshi, head of industry and solutions group at SAP Southeast Asia, which covers the Philippines. "There is clearly a need for employees to consume enterprise data outside the office domain and network. Companies recognize the need to reduce dependency on company-issued devices by deploying BYOD, [and] at the same time employees get flexibility to consume company resources and data through their preferred devices."

Stephen Misa, country manager of Cisco Systems Philippines, argued that BYOD is no longer a trend, pointing to the the proliferation of smartphones and tablets in Asia and the Philippines.

"With more than 70 percent of MNCs implementing policies within their organizations to support approved employee-owned devices [according to Ovum], I would say that BYOD adoption in Asia is doing very well," Misa said. "Three quarters of the workforce in Asia and 66 percent of Asians own at least one smart tablet device [according to IDC] and the Philippines witnessed the highest growth in the region for smartphones [according to GfK]."

He also cited a Nielsen study which found that 24 percent of Filipinos accessed the Internet on a daily basis via a mobile phone, and 56 percent planned to access the Internet via a mobile phone in the next 12 months.

For Aileen Rodriguez, country manager for the software group at IBM Philippines, the rise in the number of mobile devices in the enterprise sector has essentially altered the meaning of an office. "Work used to be a 'place', now it's any place and everywhere, and the tools to enable these new work practices are increasingly available," she said.

But, like Landbank's Bornas, Rodriguez said the issue of security "definitely" is posing as a major impediment in BYOD adoption in the country. She noted that local companies are wary of allowing devices to be used in the workplace since threats are increasingly elaborate and sophisticated.

Vendors, however, said current BYOD offerings adequately address this concern, and added that businesses are making a mistake as well as risking growth opportunities by refusing to embrace BYOD.

SAP's Joshi said: "For retailers, mobile technology has opened up new opportunities of engagement with their customers. Enterprise mobility provides additional sales channels, while at the same time engaging with customers on their terms."

Mobility products, he added, can help launch new products, new services, and even new business models with increased efficiency, as well as eliminate friction in business processes.

More importantly, letting employees use their personal devices for work also allows companies to save on the cost of providing these devices, according to Blue Coat's Andresen. If and when a company decides to hop on the BYOD train, he said it would have to find a "happy medium" between what employees expect and what they can tolerate.

"Companies understand employees pay for these personal devices, hence, the companies cannot control these personal devices like they do with a corporate-issued device," he explained. "What is needed is a flexible approach that allows employees to use their devices both at work and at home without risking leakage of corporate data."

Cisco's Misa added: "Companies should also consider having a future-proof infrastructure that can adapt to change quickly in a rapidly evolving landscape. This would allow them to maximize business agility and achieve greater competitive advantage, reach and revenue."

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.

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