Most IT organisations have yet to grapple with the thorny issue of bring your own device (BYOD) but they are increasingly facing pressure from above and below.
While 12 months ago BYOD was being driven from the top down – the CEO demanding IT support his or her iPad – according to Mike Cansfield, associate vice president at analyst IDC, increasingly it’s being driven by younger, junior staff who see less of a strict divide between their work and personal lives – and want to use the same hardware both in and out of the office.
“The next generation of workers are much more comfortable with not keeping those two things separate,” Cansfield told a Vodafone-sponsored roundtable in London.
As a result, he said, companies are increasingly putting a BYOD policy in place. According to IDC’s research, 20 per cent of companies have a BYOD policy in place and 15 per cent are working on it. But that leaves the majority – 65 per cent – nowhere on this issue yet.
And fewer companies are going beyond having a policy in place that allows staff to use their own devices in the office, and taking the next step – offering BYOD stipends so that staff can buy their own hardware.
Rob Walker, partner at consultancy Ernst & Young, also speaking at the event, said: “It’s happening everywhere. If you bury your head in the sand you are just storing up problems for the future.”
However, even if BYOD is hot, don’t expect it to cut costs, he warns. In most cases the BYOD device is an additional piece of hardware rather than a replacement: “I’m not yet convinced that it’s a cost-saver. I am yet to see BYOD as substitution. It’s an incremental device. But until you get substitution you don’t cut costs.”
The benefits of BYOD are largely in flexibility and making the company attractive to new recruits. “It generally increases productivity,” said IDC’s Cansfield.
In some respects the rise of BYOD is a reaction to years of the IT department offering a limited range of hardware – their version of Henry Ford’s “You can have any colour so long as it’s black”.
It’s also a consequence of the increasingly standardised and modularised technology infrastructure used by businesses today. Standard – and increasingly cloud-provisioned – applications are easily made available on smartphone and tablets in a way that wasn’t previously possible.
Simon Gale, CTO at IBM workplace services, said that as a result of BYOD, IT organisations are looking for new ways to secure their infrastructure, as the security perimeter changes from the physical device to the data.
“You had a standardised layer that was the device and the operating system. What BYOD is doing is taking away that opportunity for standardisation and so the IT department is trying to work out where that level is”.