Although it seems like yesterday, it’s been about five years since the bring-your-own-device phenomenon hit the enterprise technology world.
During this time, millions of people across the planet have used their own personal mobile devices to be more productive, connected and collaborative on the job. It’s revolutionized the way we work. It’s also changed the way enterprise IT does business – forever.
Five years into the BYOD era, here’s what enterprises and employees have learned so far about harnessing mobility for business benefits while strategically managing its challenges.
Gartner Inc. researchers have predicted that 90 per cent of organizations worldwide will support some form of BYOD by the end of 2017. They also forecast that by 2018, twice as many employee-owned devices will be used for work than enterprise-owned devices.
A Cass Info study released earlier this year shows the incredible growth in BYOD’s popularity. In the survey of more than 200 telecom and IT professionals in Canada and the U.S., 85 per cent said they have at least some BYOD users and 60 per cent said the number of BYOD users at their organization has increased since last year.
According to IDC’s most recent estimate, 41 per cent of organizations in Canada formally allow BYOD in the workplace by providing IT support, security or cost reimbursement for employee-owned tablets and smartphones used on the job.
A global survey of 1,865 workers by the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that BYOD helps staff work and feel better.
Employees at so-called mobile-first organizations are 16 per cent more productive, 23 per cent more satisfied, 21 per cent more loyal and 18 per cent more creative than workers at firms that have been slower to adopt a mobile mindset.
Allowing staff to use their own devices for work can also be extremely cost efficient. According to the same Gartner research we cited earlier, an IT budget of $500,000 can support 1,000 enterprise-owned tablets. With BYOD, that same budget can be stretched to support more than double the amount (2,745 to be exact) of worker-owned tablets.
However, there are other cost considerations that come into play when BYOD programs are added and expanded. The same Gartner study goes on to discuss such factors, including mobile device management, infrastructure expansion plus file share and sync, all of which are major technologies that drive investments in support of BYOD.
“Organizations doing BYOD are very likely to see their infrastructure investments increase, and the level of investment is directly proportional to the success and uptake rate of their programs." ...
"BYO programs also act as catalysts for technologies such as desktop virtualization, and isolation, as organizations attempt to establish an acceptable level of security and manageability in delivering corporate applications, and data to employee-owned devices."
The takeaway is to ensure your BYOD programs and policies are clearly set-up and communicated across the company. And as the report states, "redefine the boundaries of IT's responsiblity for end-point devices support." End users will also be more accountable and responsible to manage issues on their own device rather than going to IT for all issues.
BYOD means an employee uses their own device – but they’re using it to access the data and networks of your organization. That’s why navigating personal device usage in the workplace isn’t necessarily cut and dried.
Who owns the device? Who owns the data on it? Who pays for voice and data usage costs? Who is liable for legal issues arising from the use of the device? Which enterprise data, apps and networks can the employee access from their personal tablet or smartphone? How do you ensure security on the device without breaching the user’s privacy? What happens to corporate data on the device if the worker leaves your company?
These are the types of issues every enterprise must carefully think about before supporting BYOD. Consider drawing up a policy, then reinforcing it with ongoing staff training and education. Revisit your BYOD program over time to make sure it still meets your company’s changing needs and circumstances.
Dimension Data researchers have found that Canadian companies tend to favour a more formal, company-led approach to BYOD. At about two-thirds of the Canadian organizations they polled, BYOD is only permitted for employee-owned devices that are vetted and approved by management first.
This can give employers more control over device management and security while still providing workers with a degree of the choice and flexibility they crave on the job.
Despite all the business benefits of mobile technology, security is an ongoing concern today. That’s why most organizations employ some sort of solution that provides mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM) or data loss prevention (DLP).
Many of these solutions employ features such as encryption, monitoring and provisioning access to data, apps and servers, virtual private networks (VPNs), remote device wiping or the segmentation of personal and business data on one device.
One of the newer security offerings is virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI), which allows users to access corporate data and apps via a secure server in the cloud. This means no data or apps ever reside on the mobile device itself.
Yet recent research from Bitglass suggests enterprises need to take BYOD security a lot more seriously. The survey of 800 U.S. cybersecurity professionals found that while 72 per cent support some form of BYOD, only 14 per cent have deployed MAM – and less than half use security measures like device encryption or DLP software.
For more on enterprise security, read How Our Business Data Fried & How to Protect Yours.
About the Author
Christine Wong is a journalist based in Toronto who has covered a wide range of startups and technology issues. A former staff writer with ITBusiness.ca, she has also worked as a reporter for the Canadian Economic Press and in broadcast roles at SliceTV and the CBC.Follow on Twitter More Content by Christine Wong