The adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies is delivering greater flexibility and agility for employees, not to mention efficiency gains for the organisations who implement such policies. Linked to this is the trend of telecommunication companies positioning themselves ‘up the value stack’ as they combine their underlying network capabilities with system integration skills to deploy BYOD strategies or even provide it as a managed service.
The reason for this link is clear. BYOD helps telcos rise up the vendor food chain as they offer more value-added services to customers and generate new revenue streams for themselves. There’s also the much needed result of compensating for a decline in their existing revenue streams i.e. fixed line telephony. A successful implementation also positions the telco more strategically with their client and closer to that of ‘the trusted advisor.”
If it all goes well, BYOD results in a happy workforce, a happy client and perhaps an even happier telco. However, it also has a number of implications which could have potentially disastrous implications for telcos.
It’s not rocket science that adopting BYOD strategies increases the number of possible entry points for a potential security breach. The fact is that if a device is being used for both personal and work purposes and entering in and out of mobile and Wi-Fi networks, the chances of picking up a virus, malware or any other file that could compromise a corporate network is increased.
Security isn’t the only concern. Ensuring that the network is performing optimally and being able to support, at times, mission-critical business systems and processes is made even more complex when the variety of devices accessing those systems increases. Can the organisation or the telco be sure that its users are managing the health of their devices and hence, the network?
With BYOD comes greater complexity as the number and variety of devices accessing the network increases. With that greater complexity comes greater risks; risks that impact the security, as well as the performance of the network.
Covering all the bases
The often over-looked element is that these risks cover both the technology involved and the related business processes. As a result, a telco needs to have both bases covered; irrespective of whether they have implemented BYOD as a standalone solution or as a managed service for their client. This is important because one thing is for certain - there is for a good possibility that the finger of blame will be pointed in their direction if something goes wrong; irrespective of whether it is actually their fault or not.
There have been a number of instances where organisations have quite easily ‘passed the buck’ to their technology providers when a critical system has failed or there has been a security breach leading to sensitive data being accessed by the wrong people; any or all of which can lead to lost sales and/or revenue. This is in addition to the intangible but often underestimated cost of damage to an organisation’s brand.
A couple of years ago, a technology provider felt the full brunt of displeasure from not only their client but in turn, their client’s customers when one of the critical business systems that they were responsible for crashed. The client (an airline) was very quick to shift the blame and responsibility to the service provider, who then had to deal with days of public criticism and scrutiny in the press while also trying to restore the system.
While such considerations may be commonplace for those established service providers, it is something that is often overlooked by telco companies as they take a more strategic role with their clients. The investment required for telcos to deliver BYOD isn’t only a matter of the human capital needed to manage the relationship with their clients at both a technology and business level. It includes required investment by the telco in two key areas – having the right tools and the right skills in place to make BYOD a success.
The BYOD microscope
The first key area is ensuring that there are the right tools in place to increase the granularity and visibility of what is happening across their clients’ networks. Different devices, different access points, differing histories all lead to a need to ensure that there is a complete view of what is happening across the network and what is being sent across it. Obtaining as much granularity into the network traffic and heightening the visibility ensures that the time to resolve any security or performance issue is lowered by quickly identifying the issue and reducing the time-to-resolution (TTR). This then flows on to both the tangible and intangible costs associated with downtime and slow network performance.
The second key area is having the personnel with an understanding of the key business processes that are being driven by the BYOD solution in place. This ensures that the right resources are in place to have the necessary discussions with the client should something go wrong. It is an investment that should be a no-brainer for any telco company, yet is often overlooked in favour of new technology or the pursuit of the next deal.
BYOD is a godsend for organisations and their employees and telcos are in the box seat to take them along for the journey. It allows for greater efficiencies for the organisation and the employee alike but the risks involved are also greater, potentially impacting both the security and the performance of the underlying network. The telco needs to be proactive; this means unravelling the increased complexity with greater granularity and visibility of the network, as well as to ensure the right business skills are in place to resolve issues with the client. Failure to do either could lead to an unhappy and potentially public breakup; the scars of which could last a long time for both parties.
Brett Moorgas is the Asia/Pacific field marketing manager, for the Endace division of Emulex.