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Bring-Your-Own-Device to work and change the world
12th June 2012

Some technologies take forever to make their mark on our life style. For years, we laughed at the notion of ‘paperless office’, clutching the stapler while the mouse hovers over the ‘print’ command. After twenty years, my stapler is finally pensioned off. Not so with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – employees using personal devices for work. If it was there before, it was creeping in silently, secretly and sporadically. Suddenly you realise that all round you employees are using their personal smartphones and iPads for work, in all walks of life. Suddenly, they do not just get corporate email on smartphone, but connect via mobile broadband to corporate applications, such as job scheduling, workflow or inventory management.

IT departments first treated this as a joke. Then it became a threat – no way can a personal device access the inner sanctity of enterprise services – it would compromise the carefully isolated, protected and cherished corporate information. No one was ready for what has happened – and is still happening – employees are simply bypassing IT rules. The combination of smartphones with the public cloud is so enticing – just use your personal credit card and claim it on expenses. In response, seemingly overnight, IT department attitudes changed from totally banning BYOD to enthusiastically adopting it as the obvious, inevitable and desirable next step. Now companies are busy reshaping budgets, re-skilling staff and reorganising resources in order to match the brave new world that is engulfing the corporate ICT environment.

BYOD is not just an accepted technology change – it is a compelling and unstoppable evolution. The freedom to choose your own device is appealing to all ranks, including the most senior levels – no wonder approvals are obtained so fast! In fact, to gain choice of terminals and ubiquitous access to facilities, employees are even ‘happy’ to pay for the equipment themselves, saving a fortune for their companies. BYOD enterprises image is enhanced with this forward-looking, employee-friendly strategy. What’s more, employees can now access work tools 24×7 and seem to be willing to work all hours – raising productivity without extra pay. That cannot be bad for business. Better employer image, higher productivity, lower IT costs – what’s not to like?

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BYOD entered formally into the Telecom consciousness in Barcelona MWC in February 2012, followed by a quick crop of opinion surveys. Their overwhelming consensus is that up to 80 per cent of surveyed companies (mostly in the developed world) are already practicing some form of BYOD or plan to do so in the next 12 months. One of these studies (below) shows that Productivity tops the ‘Importance’ scale (blues), with ‘Choice’ followed by ‘Costs’ achieving greatest success (already!), and both are amazingly high (65 – 85 per cent) for something so new. OK, I hear you say, this is hype drummed up by vendors seeking to sell services. Yes, true, but – that fast… that high??

BYOD

Now, let us think where this trend is leading to, in the final analysis. If employees now use only personal devices for both work and leisure, I foresee some far-reaching changes will sweep over the enterprise ICT environment. With employees becoming consumers, there is no further role for Mobile carriers to play in the enterprise market segment, consequently – no corporate mobile contracts! BYOD-only enterprises will need to beef up their WLAN access and LAN capacity to cope with surging demand for broadband services, but have no need for Mobile services any more. We will see the end of Mobile VPN and IP-Centrex too. Even corporate mobile messaging services may give way to business use of social networks services – watch out for ‘Facebook-for-the-Enterprise’ progress! We will see the mobile enterprise market disappearing, leaving only a large, fragmented consumer market.

Following current trends, personal and business domains will merge so tightly that working hours will have no meaning, and with this, legislation covering labour, minimum hourly rate, length of working day and so on. Employees’ mobility between employments is increased, as the phone number belongs to the employee, not the company. It will not be possible to sever the connection to key customers on the day an employee leaves to join the competition. As employees have access to internal systems from their personal devices, prompt action must be required to block it and wipe out any sensitive data already stored on these devices remotely. Rules of data privacy may also be affected – corporate data is the property of the enterprise, to inspect and process in any of its systems, but now it is inextricably mingled with personal data, which the enterprise should not touch – where are the new demarcation lines?

Next, consider what happens when users can utilise enterprise resources for free, while personal demand for broadband content is rocketing sky-high. BYOD employees have no quota constraints when they are connected to the enterprise network. Both WiFi and wired network capacities will have to be rapidly upgraded – not for business objectives, but to satisfy employees’ appetite for bandwidth-hungry apps and content. How can enterprise restrain, if not prevent, private usage?

The demise of the corporate mobile market, rewriting employment laws and privacy rule-books, curbing private use when business and personal usage are indistinguishable – is it all far-fetched? Just watch how BYOD is spreading like wild fire, and think of the end-game!

 

Rebecca Copeland

Rebecca Copeland
Executive Content Editor

Dragon Wave
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