An increasing number of organisations are accepting employee-owned mobile devices in the trend dubbed bring your own device (BYOD).
What’s driving this trend, what are the risks and what should CIOs factor into the decision whether to support user-owned hardware?
According to Forrester Research analyst Christian Kane, the trend is the result of pressures from two different directions.
“On the one hand, consumers have developed a love affair with new devices and all the different ways they can be used. Since most consumers are also employees, they have created a groundswell of demand to bring familiar personal devices to work. Some consumers are executives, and they also want to bring their smartphones or tablet computers into the office, so they pressure IT to give them access.”
On the other hand, says Kane, finance departments are pushing for BYOD by asking the following question: “If our employees already own these handsets and they’re using them for work, why does the company pay for devices and communications services?”
Recognising this move towards blending personal and business use of technology, many companies are already writing rules and guidelines for BYOD into their mobile device usage policy.
On top of that, organisations are relaxing rules to accommodate personal handhelds for at least some business services.
According to Phil Jordan, Group CIO at mobile network operator Telefonica, consumerisation is an irreversible revolution.
“CIOs must embrace it, and in doing so, open and innovate quickly in the corporate workplace,” he says.
Companies that do embrace BYOD are cutting costs in at least two ways. The first is that employees usually share at least some of the expense of buying the device.
The second is that less training and support are required.
The worker chooses the handset usually because he or she is already familiar with it and doesn’t need to be shown how to use it.
But not everybody is on board. Naomi Connell, CFO of construction business VolkerWessels UK, says that hardware savings are offset by the need for extra IT resources.
“There is no doubt that BYOD brings some savings to the company. Hardware costs are reduced and staff can more easily connect to company systems from home on their own devices,” she says.
“However, these benefits are currently outweighed by the additional IT resources required to support the different devices and additional connectivity, as well as the software and procedures needed to protect the network.”
Forrester’s Kane warns CIOs that the new mobile platforms have been designed for the consumer and not the enterprise.
“Many firms find that these platforms don’t provide them as much control as they have with enterprise-grade systems, such as Blackberry Enterprise Server,” he explains.
“Furthermore, consumer applications which synchronise with cloud services present the danger of company information being stored somewhere the company doesn’t control.”
Some see other risks.
VolkerWessels UK CTO Melanie Nurse warns that non-standard clients invite security breaches.
“With malware releases that exploit your mobile data already at an alarming high and set to double in the next year, it is more important than ever to adequately protect our company’s data and this is extremely difficult without standardisation and control,” she says.