Today, companies around the world are embracing the BYOD (bring your own device) trend by allowing employees to use personal mobile devices for work as a way to increase productivity.
But while employee satisfaction may increase with the use of personal devices at work, IT admins are now forced to spend larger amounts of time and resources on securing and managing sensitive corporate data stored on these devices. Consequently, IT departments have imposed restrictions to limit employee device access and usage, and the result is a double-edged sword: Employee productivity has been stifled thereby eliminating the added value that BYOD can bring to an organization.
So what should CIOs do to preserve maximum productivity with BYOD, while maintaining much-needed corporate security? We'd be wise to take some pointers from business magnate Warren Buffett, who said, when encountering a productivity dilemma with his textile company, "Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks."
Buffett's advice can apply to the IT industry as well. Instead of trying to "patch the leak" by limiting BYOD, IT professionals should devote their energy to "changing vessels" by adjusting their approach to their work and setting employee freedom-of-choice as a high priority.
As smartphones and their access to the Cloud continue to gain momentum, BYOD consumerization will penetrate deeper into enterprises, forcing IT to find its place in a new service-oriented world. Success in this consumerized environment requires IT to fully understand employee preferences in order to deliver secure, yet non-limiting services.
How would Buffett approach this? An avid bridge player, he once commented that in order to succeed, you must be willing to modify your existing behavior or approach as you gain new information. "In bridge, you behave in a way that gets the best from your partner. And in business, you behave in the way that gets the best from your managers and your employees."
The same is true in IT. Listening to employee needs and becoming familiar with the way they use their apps and mobile devices will enable IT departments to discover opportunities that optimize employee mobile devices. Taking it one step further, IT should develop dedicated applications that open useful mobile access points to company data, relying on user experience and user interface experts to assure the quality of the user experience.
Although keeping up with the high standards of usability may demand added resources from IT in the short term, significant time and money will be saved on support over time. Investing in more user-friendly applications today will lead employees to become more independent, and demand less direct guidance and support from IT in the future.
And what about securing corporate data? Security threats shouldn't stop IT from seizing the great opportunities that BYOD brings, especially with the emergence of new solutions that prevent corporate data from being stored on individual devices. When information is not saved on individual devices and never leaves the company environment, the data remains secure, allowing IT to easily enforce and manage security policies without limiting employee freedom-of-choice or restraining productivity.
Just like in a game of bridge, there will be winners and losers. In the long run, those companies that are the first to follow employee preferences and acquire the necessary knowledge and experience to maximize the potential of mobility will enjoy a significant competitive advantage. At this point, the IT mindset is what matters most. Changing this mindset will keep everyone focused on company business needs even while faced with security challenges. Building a new BYOD "vessel" now, rather than simply "patching the leaks," will eventually enable IT professionals to help drive their companies to new levels of productivity and success.
And who would know better than Warren Buffett?
Israel Lifshitz is the Founder of SysAid Technologies, a global IT Service Management (ITSM) company. SysAid's software solutions are used by more than 100,000 organizations in 140 countries, spanning all industries and company sizes.