|Issue:||Europe I 2014|
|Topic:||Surfing the mobility wave|
|Author:||Hardeep Singh Garewal|
|Title:||President – European Operations|
Hardeep Singh Garewal is President, ITC Infotech Ltd., UK and heads ITC Infotech’s European Operations. Hardeep joined ITC Ltd. in 1988. He spent the first 12 years of his career in the FMCG business, starting off in the trade marketing and distribution function of the tobacco business. He took over as Marketing and India Business Development Head, ITC Infotech, and was later appointed CEO, ITC Infotech Europe.
Hardeep is a Chemical Engineer with a B.Tech (Hons.) from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing from Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata.
Research companies agree that the upward pressure from staff and the potential productivity gains ensure that BYOD will become mandatory, in spite of the security risks. The big challenge for IT is supporting seamlessly not only Windows PCs, but all the different platforms and their frequent upgrades. In addition, they must remain compliant with governance and security policies. Consumer-grade collaboration tools for sharing data between employees are blamed for the unprecedented rise in data breaches, last year. Using a virtualised cloud model alleviates some of these issues, by reducing the need to store sensitive data on personal devices.
What are the challenges and benefits of increased consumerisation in workplace IT? As staff mobility increases what can organisations do to profit from this ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) revolution?.
The business world is poised for a communications revolution. As Apple CEO Tim Cook has pointed out, we are now living in ‘the post-PC era’. A recent Intel survey revealed that there are over five billion connected devices in the world today, a number which it predicts will soar to an astonishing 15 billion by 2015 – and most of this growth will be in the mobile device category.
Following in the wake of consumer markets where smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are now woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, business has often been slow to grasp the potential of the bring your own device (BYOD) revolution. Individuals, however, have ploughed on, using their own tablets and smartphones to personally reap the benefits of increased mobility and productivity.
This brave new world is not without its cost, however. Many organisations have found that their ICT infrastructure is simply not up to the task of coping with the massively increased complexity the influx of new hardware, operating systems and apps of uncertain provenance brings onto their networks, while others are daunted by the potential security risks of playing host to this technological melange.
What is BYOD and what are its implications?
Gartner defines a BYOD strategy as “an alternative strategy that allows employees, business partners and other users to use a personally selected and purchased client device to execute enterprise applications and access data. It typically spans smartphones and tablets, but the strategy may also be used for PCs. It may or may not include a subsidy.”  According to a Forrester survey on BYOD, more than two-thirds of North American and European information workers personally select the smartphones and tablets they use for work, and 46 per cent use laptops that are not on the company-approved device list. This trend is blurring the boundaries between personal and work IT with staff increasingly using their own devices to run enterprise applications and access company data.
Gartner predicts that upward pressure from staff and the potential productivity gains mean that BYOD will become mandatory. It says that in spite of any potential security risks, half of employers will require their employees to provide their own IT devices for work purposes by 2017.
Risks & rewards
Companies need to throw themselves enthusiastically into this new world, but all too often they are left pondering the risks and potential rewards. A major part of the problem is that although BYOD makes sense for most businesses, bringing increased mobility, higher job satisfaction and improvements in efficiency and productivity, it is often difficult to build a business case that can fire up the board by articulating these benefits clearly. “The business case for BYOD needs to be better evaluated,” comments David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Most leaders do not understand the benefits, and only 22 per cent believe they have made a strong business case. BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades. The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.”
There are a number of tablet operating systems and platforms: Windows, iOS, Blackberry RIM and Android etc, and the challenge for organisations is to provision all the necessary business applications across all of these disparate platforms. Organisations really need to offer their staff ‘anytime, anywhere, any platform’ access to their enterprise resources. They need to tackle the challenge of managing a coexistent IT estate with multiple operating systems existing in the environment at the same time. The increased consumerisation has also seen burgeoning mobile app development, leading to ‘Enterprise App Stores’ becoming increasingly important. Organisations that aren’t addressing this rapidly developing situation need to start, and soon!
This situation has opened up a whole new range of opportunities for service providers because until recently all the enterprise resources were typically provided on Windows platforms. Now there is the big challenge of provisioning the resources seamlessly across all of these other environments. Getting an enterprise application to work impressively and intuitively on a standard PC has often been a chore for developers and now they have the added challenge of getting the same look, feel and functionality across an ever-widening range of devices and operating systems. What’s more, these devices and operating systems are being updated and upgraded at an ever-increasing rate, adding even more complexity to the task.
There are other, more business-critical issues to deal with apart from platform and OS complexity. As ‘consumerisation’ rolls out and user-owned devices come into organisations, the challenge, in addition to provisioning enterprise applications seamlessly, is to remain compliant with governance and security policies.
Securing the estate
Ultimately BYOD will be as successful as the security that underpins it, but using a virtualised cloud model can ensure that no sensitive data sits on local platforms. Any work, however it is accessed, is stored on a server and it is only the virtualised application that gets accessed from the mobile device. This process secures the environment while giving users access to all the resources they need with the mobility they want. In this way there is no need to carry data around on devices or laptops, the data never leaves the server. It should make no difference where the resource is being accessed from. All the governance and security measures are in place to allow the user to securely access whatever controlled resources the enterprise provides with, on whatever device they like.
With this virtualised model, organisations can provide new employees with a device and a user ID on their first day and deliver them a complete desktop environment once they have entered authentication. On leaving the company the employee loses their access authorisation and there is no trace of the application data left on the device. Similarly if a device is lost or stolen, no data is lost or compromised.
The message is still not always getting through however. Security breaches are increasing at an alarming rate. A year ago the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed that data breaches had risen by 1,014 per cent over the last five years and looked set to continue in this trend. It attributed this unfortunate growth to the use of consumer-grade collaboration tools for sharing data between employees and with their mobile devices to enable remote working. Remote working has been seen as a ‘silver bullet’ trend delivering both improved lifestyles for employees and reducing environmental damage by cutting down on commuting, so it is an important element for many organisations to consider and get right.
The Information Security Forum in its Top five security threats businesses will face in 2013 also mentioned the potential for location information to be exploited by criminals. “The popularity of sharing or disclosing location online and the proliferation of GPS-enabled devices will increase all types of crime exploiting location information,” it said. Clearly it is important for companies adopting a more open stance towards BYOD to adopt the appropriate governance strategy as well.
The consumerisation of IT
Gartner predicts that in less than three years a third of IT expenditure will occur outside of the corporate budget. ‘Generation Z’ has grown up with mobile technology and as they mature and start to dominate the business world they will be setting the agenda and demanding that organisations support the devices, operating systems and applications that they use in both their private and professional lives as the boundaries between the two blur.
The pressure is not only coming from young executives either. Many areas of the UK’s massive public sector are being urged to adopt a more mobile approach. The think tank Demos recently recommended that “smartphone or iPad-style data stores” should be given to public sector frontline staff, like police, social workers and health visitors, to help them keep track of service users and their specific needs.
Only by offering ‘anytime, anywhere, any platform’ access to their enterprise resources can organisations both large and small satisfy the increasingly complex demands of their user base and the younger more tech-literate generation now coming to prominence in the work place. Managing coexistent platforms within the IT estate, with multiple operating systems will become the norm rather than the exception and the sooner IT departments get on board with this revolution the sooner they can start to benefit from it.
 Intel: Chip Shot: New Intel Server Technology: Powering the Cloud to Handle 15 Billion Connected Devices.
 Gartner: Gartner Predicts by 2017, Half of Employers will Require Employees to Supply Their Own Device for Work Purposes. www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2466615
 Forrester: Building The Business Case for a Bring-Your-Own-Device Program.