Breaking a BYOD stigma

There are still perceptions that allowing staff to bring their own devices to work will just help them play Angry Birds in the office, when in fact it can provide a boost to productivity.

For many years, the BlackBerry was the pinnacle of corporate devices. They were reliable, had a standardised operating system, and worked through a corporate management service behind the firewall. BlackBerry’s creators, Research in Motion, faced no competition in the corporate market.

That changed, of course, on January 9th 2007 when Steve Jobs ushered in the age of the smartphone with the announcement of the iPhone. Focused on the consumer and sporting a simple touch interface, the phone was an overnight success. Add to that the App Store, and suddenly BlackBerry’s seemed rather antiquated.

One benefit of the iPhone was its easy configuration for corporate systems, including wifi, Exchange email and other applications via the App Store. Many users were able to configure their own devices without the assistance of their IT team.

This caused a shift in the way users looked at their mobile devices. No longer was the phone a portal into work – it instead became a primary device, often more important than a laptop.

This new generation of devices (iPhones, Androids and others) have caused a stir for CIOs who are now looking to bring them ‘into the fold’ to keep users happy.

Traditionally their view has been to select a corporate standard (the same way businesses purchase laptops, for instance) and then enforce that on users. However because users can self provision their own phones, they often bypass such arrangements and just do what they want.

Most IT Teams have been focusing very specifically on areas such as Mobile Device Management software and enforcing compliance policies on these devices. However, CIOs should release that one of the problems of enforcing legacy policies around encryption, passwords and permission to install applications is that they’ll undermine the benefits users find through such devices.

Research has in fact shown that feeling more productive makes users more productive. Users don’t want to have an iPad in the office to play Angry Birds. Instead, they believe an iPad will benefit them in their role – and if they believe that, it probably will.

Here are some key things to consider when thinking about mobile devices and BYO:

  1. Focus on data and services, not on devices alone.
    Users will continue to find new devices and ways of getting around corporate policies. Concentrate on securing the data (such as files, email, calendars and contacts) that users want to access.
  2. Understand these devices are for both personal and business uses.
    Your employees will use mobile devices to take pictures of their kids and run their own apps. Your IT policies should understand and reflect this. Don’t, for example, wipe the CEO’s personal photos when upgrading his OS. Have a solution that allows your business to securely remove corporate data only.
  3. Understand that the consumerisation of IT is happening and is providing real business benefits.
    As more Gen-Y staff enter the workforce and take senior roles in organisations, CIOs will be presented with users who can be their IT support team (to some degree). CIOs should see this as a benefit, not a challenge.
  4. Work with users to understand device preferences.
    Mobility today is more than picking a particular device as your new corporate standard. Release that some users will want to continue with their Blackberry while others may want an Android handset. Poll your workers to understand their preferences and support as many as you can.

Rhys Evans is Thomas Duryea’s National Practice Manager, Enterprise Information Systems. 

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