|MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL: Time to sort out this BYOD thing|
December 21, 2011
By John Ginovsky, contributing editor
What do you do when bank employees have better personal tech gadgets than the bank does, and they use them to be more productive?
It’s not an idle question. It is related to a red-hot phenomenon that has popped up only within the past six months or so, variously called “the consumerization of IT” or “bring your own device,” or BYOD.
It’s not specifically bank related but it does vitally concern any business operation that relies on technology, is extremely concerned with data security, is confined by economic pressures, and is intensely focused on boosting the bottom line. So, bank organizations certainly qualify.
Some literature and analysis is starting to emerge on this. Accenture just came out with a report with the highly descriptive title: “Rising use of consumer technology in the workplace forcing IT departments to respond.” It surveyed more than 4,000 employees in 16 countries across five continents, as well as more than 300 business and IT executives. Some findings:
• 23% regularly use personal consumer devices, such as smart phones, tablets, etc., for work-related activities.
• 27% said they would be prepared to pay for their own devices and applications to use at work.
• 27% said they routinely use noncorporate applications downloaded from the internet in the work place that help them to work better.
• 30% said they routinely check their work email just before going to bed.
“Employees feel increasingly empowered to make their own technology decisions and say that corporate IT is just not as flexible and convenient as the personal consumer devices and software applications they use in their personal lives,” says Accenture’s Jeanne Harris.
Like banking, the Department of Defense is another organization that would be concerned about such a phenomenon. It’s interesting what Kourtney Wooten, writing in a blog associated with an enabling technology company called Polycom, has to say:
“Over time, agencies began to notice more and more government employees looking to bring the tablet computers and mobile devices that they used in their own personal lives into the workplace environment. Ultimately, as the lines between work and life began to blur, employees were demanding to be able to access the same technologies within the office as they did at home.
“This phenomenon, known as BYOD or bring your own device, is historically something that would have been torpedoed immediately by government agencies. However, some things have happened recently that made agencies re-evaluate their stand on BYOD: the economic downturn and federal budget crisis.”
To some observers, this appears to be an unstoppable and even welcome trend. Ken Hess, writing in the ZDNET blog, has a piece titled “BYOD: The inevitable reality.” In it he promotes BYOD as “the exciting new era of enterprise computing.”
“The reality is that companies must find ways to decrease overhead without sacrificing product quality. They must increase profitability to attract investment money to continue to grow, to innovate, and to explore. One significant way to do that is to allow employees to bring their own devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets) to work and use them,” Hess says.
He goes on to list the various arguments against BYOD—lack of support, hidden costs, security, and the shear newness of the phenomenon—and offers counter arguments to debunk them.
Not so fast, though. These very issues—security and the role of corporate IT functions—are not to be dismissed cavalierly. Compuware just came out with its own study which concludes that IT consumerization does increase business risk. For example, 64% of the CIOs interviewed said support for employee mobility is almost impossible due to reliance on external networks, making it much harder to control performance.
“This research shows that the age-old disconnect between business and IT is at risk of widening. Employees are clearly hungry to use the same technologies in their business environments that they are already using in their personal lives. This is creating more challenges for those responsible to keep these technologies up and running. To adapt to this changing dynamic, it’s critical for organizations to extend best practice management beyond the firewall by first understanding the end user experience of new technologies and services,” says Compuware’s Steve Tack.
BlackBerry, which provides such personal tech devices, was moved to produce a fairly even-handed guide titled “Bringing BYOD to your enterprise.” “Bring your own device brings flexibility to enterprise mobility; however, IT still needs to manage and secure the data on mobile devices, whether they are owned by an enterprise or user,” the guide says in its introduction.
“Shifting users to a BYOD strategy does not absolve IT from responsibility for mobile device management. It doesn’t matter who is paying for the mobile device. IT will still have to manage that device as a corporate asset,” says Philippe Winthrop, managing director at the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, which assisted in preparing the guide.
One very clear head on this issue belongs to Unisys, even though it certainly is all in favor of expanding BYOD. A recent paper it issued says: “Consumer technologies and tools are bringing down the old artificial barriers around the workplace. At work and at home and everywhere in between, tech-savvy workers and consumers are using the same powerful, widely available tools and applications…to stay informed, connected, and productive in their professional as well as their personal lives.”
At the same time, however, Unisys provides a practical plan of action for any organization seeking to explore this. In brief:
• Take stock. Understand what technologies are being used by employees and address the security risks to gain some control over what’s currently being used.
• Identify weakest points. Strengthen security to ensure data isn’t compromised.
• Determine best deployment for business benefit. Look at how to best manage devices and support users, including self-help portals, support via chat or instant messaging, or a virtual service desk with FAQs and training videos.
“The reality is consumer technology is coming into your organization in droves; it is time to take control and transform the way you do business to harness the true value these new technologies have to offer,” the Unisys guide concludes.
Still, BYOD is just now breaking through the awareness barrier. A lot has yet to be determined.
The following sources were used in this piece:
Feduc blog: http://feduc.us/?p=408
Blackberry guide: http://searchsecurity.bitpipe.com/detail/RES/1317216558_387.html
| TechTopics Plus