BYOD – Forget the device
Only a short while ago BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was a buzzword being thrown around in the IT industry as one of the new disruptive technologies. Employees started to bring their own devices, especially mobile devices, to work in order to use these devices for work and to improve their productivity. Email in particular was a popular tool employees wanted to access when they were away from the office. Although this is not a new phenomenon (I’ve been taking my personal laptop into work for a good number of years), mobile devices highlighted this trend. Recently though, employees don’t only want to access their email, but they also want to engage with their corporate software systems to improve their productivity. This is causing a massive additional workload on IT departments where these devices must now form part of the network to enable higher productivity.
Don’t focus on the device
Forget about the device for now; rather focus on the standards that you want to implement. The latest “crop” of smart phones and tablets are strong enough to run virtual environments on them. By utilizing this power and functionality, the question of which device is being used becomes less important. The assumption is that BYOD only covers mobile phones and tablets when in fact it should also cover laptops and other computing devices – even external storage devices and online storage services. With a focus on standards and the implementation of those standards across the environment, it will be easier to integrate these devices into the infrastructure as a solution for the organisation. Employees will always use their own devices based on personal choice. Therefor, focus on network and usage standards.
Security is not your main concern
Although security is a valid concern, it should be viewed as only a part of your bigger security concern. If the proliferation of mobile devices in your organisation is the reason to look at your security, you are already vulnerable. Probably for a while data has been leaving your premises via USB sticks, portable media, email and other online services. Security should be looked at in its entirety, not only from an infrastructure point of view, but also from the perspective of encryption, password security, user rights and data security. A clear separation should be made between business data and personal data, and virtual environments are perfect for this type of separation. However, more important than the security is the governance around the use of personal devices and how you as an employer can make better use of these devices.
Focus should be on infrastructure
Your infrastructure must be able to cater for all the different devices and their ability to connect to your network, get security settings, retrieve email and so on, but your infrastructure is also much bigger than just the physical infrastructure. With infrastructure you should also look at the software that is used in your organization and whether the software is optimized for different platforms. Depending on the functionally you would like to enable through other devices, your software might need to be a lot smarter. Security privileges are now not only user dependent, but also device and location dependent. Security privileges should not inhibit your employees from doing their work irrespective of location or device. The scope of work you want to enable through user devices must be defined before you create your BYOD policy. The policy needs to fit in with your corporate direction and what you aim to achieve with enabling user devices on your network. This is the perfect opportunity to relook at your existing software, systems and processes and to streamline those to enable a forward-thinking BYOD policy.
Holistic approach to improvement
One of the main outcomes of the BYOD movement is that users are willing to change in order to improve their productivity. With this in mind, don’t focus on driving governance: instead, focus on driving employee behaviour and changing their engagement patterns. The governance you want to put in place to minimise your risk will now be driven by the employees themselves. This is also the perfect opportunity to look at your infrastructure and procurement cycles. With more people using their own devices, the standard procurement and roll-out model is going to change drastically, make sure you are ready for it. Are your vendors BYOD enabled, or are they only promising to deliver some measure of BYOD in the near future? Re-evaluate your vendors and your guidelines on software procurement: cheaper and more agile solutions might be a better fit your company and your long term goals.
The BYOD movement is gaining momentum, and the signs have been there for a while. More and more IT departments are faced with the prospect of supporting multiple devices while maintaining system integrity and security. By employing a holistic approach to BYOD, companies will not only improve employee productivity, but they can also increase employee and customer engagement. BYOD is only one part of the new digital landscape, and needs the other parts to be fully functional. We will soon be at a point where a company’s BYOD policy will determine the quality and type of employees a company can attract. A good BYOD implementation will lead to a better and possibly cheaper infrastructure and improved user behaviour.
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