Industry Market Trends

Are You Ready for BYOD?

May 22, 2012

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is sweeping across companies of all sizes, as increasingly more employees use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones on the job.

The tablet revolution that began a couple of years ago with the debut of Apple's iPad will culminate in the tablet becoming the primary computing device for most users by 2016, according to analysts at Forrester Research. The research firm forecasts 375 million tablets will sell worldwide in 2016.

It's inevitable that these and other mobile devices will find a way into the workplace.

"Two different, but interrelated, phenomena have been occurring over the last decade that are radically reshaping the work environment at many companies. The first is commonly referred to as the 'Consumerization of Information Technology.' The second is the blurring of the line between work life and personal life experienced by many employees," a new report from Littler Mendelson, an employment and labor law services provider, states. "One result is the rapid adoption of mobile devices by employees - including iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and other devices."

The Bring Your Own Device trend is sweeping across companies large and small. Commonly referred to as BYOD, it simply means employees are increasingly bringing their own laptops, tablets, smartphones and other mobile technology devices into the workplace.

Already, 84 percent of smartphone owners use their own device for work-related functions, such as email or Web browsing, according to information technology (IT) trade association group CompTIA. Overall, more than 80 percent of employed adults use their personal devices for work, a recent Harris Interactive survey for security firm ESET found.

Among the benefits of BYOD: Costs are predictable and controlled. Users work with a device of their choosing, so the learning curve and suitability are customized to the job and the individual's expertise.

IBM is perhaps the largest company to adopt a BYOD policy. About 80,000 IBM employees currently use their personal devices on the job, but the company hopes to extend the program to include all 440,000 employees.

Ultimately, workers empowered by BYOD programs are more productive. In a recent survey of 500 IT professionals and administrators, cloud-based services provider Mimecast found that more than half (50.7 percent) of respondents believe that employee access to personal devices is a productivity necessity, and only 7.9 percent said personal devices were detrimental to productivity.

Moreover, in a recent Forrester survey commissioned by security firm IronKey, 79 percent of North American IT decision-makers believe the increasing diversity of our end-user devices will have a significant-to-moderate impact on IT-services spending, and 60 percent say they've already seen savings in that area.

"For IT, employee passion to use personal devices and an overall desire by companies to reduce costs, are rendering the traditional model of supporting only company-owned devices increasingly obsolete," a recent report by Good Technology, a company that provides enterprise security and management services for mobile device use, states.

BYOD is a hotly debated concept for business IT. While BYOD has the potential to save businesses significantly on capital expenses, it is not without risks and the need for thorough evaluation.

According to Littler, the risks of BYOD fall into two broad categories:

The first relates to the fact that a company's data is now being stored and transmitted using devices and networks the employer may not own or control. This loss of control clashes with the growth over the last decade of government regulations requiring companies to carefully protect the privacy and security of sensitive personal, financial and health-related data. It also poses risks to the protection of a company's trade secret, proprietary or confidential information.

The second set of risks arises from the impact BYOD policies may have on the behavior of employees. For example, employees may feel the use of their own personal devices should not be regulated by company policies on acceptable use, or they may be more likely to engage in "off-the-clock" work that could either increase overtime expenses or the risk of wage and hour claims.

According to most analyses, the enterprise's biggest mobile challenge is managing information security, including common security incidents (e.g., lost devices, violations of corporate policies for data and mobile phishing attacks).

Yet even as tablet owners have access to an even wider range of business applications, 26 percent of IT pros and administrators say their company does not allow employees to use their own device for corporate tasks, CompTIA reports. Moreover, only 22 percent of companies have a formal mobile device policy in place and just 20 percent are working to establish one.

Companies must find a way to seamlessly converge vital corporate information and communication systems with their employees' mobile devices.

Based on its findings, Mimecast offers three key recommendations to make the most of BYOD:

  • Provide comprehensive support. Employees will work around corporate IT infrastructure as a means of being more productive and finding ways to leverage their personal devices, whether they're supported by the business or not. Supporting multiple platforms can ensure employees are accessing and sharing business data within a secure environment approved by the organization.

  • Focus on data. Many IT pros identify their role as someone responsible for locating content and establishing context that is aligned with associated business rules, so an organization's mobile strategy should not only enable IT professionals to manage the volume of data effectively, but also allow employees to securely access and leverage data as a business asset.

  • Enable productivity. Identify the business applications on which employees rely - such as the organization's email or collaboration tools - and provide mobile and tablet support for these applications to ensure employees can remain productive.