1 November 2012 | 0
The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) phenomenon is somewhat unique in so far as it is being driven to a large extent by end users. This is rare indeed, as the IT department, and the business, are far more common drivers in this kind of development. However, what few seem to doubt are the benefits of productivity, flexibility and availability that this trend can deliver for workers, with even cost beginning to take a back seat in terms of inhibitors.
With all this in mind, ComputerScope, in association with O2, surveyed 339 IT professionals from among its readership to gauge attitudes, usages and general adoption.
One the first metrics to emerge from the survey was the attitude toward remote working, of the kind facilitated by BYOD. Nearly 88% said that they expected it to increase or increase significantly over the next 18 months. Despite this expectation, 67% were cognisant of the fact that such remote working was making life more difficult for the CIO. Added to this is an increasing desire among 83% of respondents to use their own devices for these purposes, and the picture that emerges is one of demand, pressure and a need for IT to take control of the situation.
"One of the key findings from this survey is that the vast majority (88%) agree or agree strongly that a professional enterprise mobility plan can save money and increase productivity," said Nicola Mortimer, head of Business Product Portfolio Management, Telefónica Ireland, which operates the O2 brand. "These savings can be achieved through instant access to resources anywhere at any time from any device, including access to corporate networks and applications; email and calendars; video conferencing and virtual meetings."
"While two thirds (67%) of respondents to the survey say that the move to remote working is making the life of the CIO and IT manager more difficult, the BYOD trend appears to be unstoppable."
Returning to the issue an enterprise mobility plan saving money, less than 1% strongly disagreed, with just over 4% disagreeing, but a significant 7.5% didn’t know. Despite questions over device replacement and insurance being raised with respect to BYOD, it would appear that Irish attitudes are overwhelmingly positive as regards cost and the potential for savings.
"More than eight out of ten (84%) respondents said that there is increased demand by employees to use their own smartphone or tablet to access the office server and email," commented Mortimer. "And more than three quarters (76.9%) felt that they would need to make changes to the way that their organisation makes data available to take full advantage of the possibilities of BYOD."
"This means that there is an onus on all IT partners and providers today to supply the tools and protection necessary for organisations to enable a mobile workforce while helping to address and manage the security issues which BYOD introduces."
The proportion who disagreed with the need to make changes to the way data is made available in light of BYOD was just 14.4%, with the don’t knows under 9%. This clearly highlights the awareness among Irish IT professionals for new controls to protect data in the corporate environment when accessed on mobile and personal devices. There are many potential ways of tackling this, with the likes of mobile device management systems (MDM), as well as enterprise applications for mobile. Enterprise applications can containerise data, allowing it to be kept within certain confines which can facilitate remote wiping should the need arise, while protecting personal data which may also reside on the device.
Visibility and control of devices is a key issue for the respondents as almost half (49%) confirmed that there was no database of personal devices that accessed servers and email. Some 40% said that there was such a database, but again this highlights the need for proper tools for the management of personal devices in the corporate environment.
A further aspect of control and protection is device encryption. When asked if all personal devices that access servers or email were encrypted, 44% said no, while a further 12% didn’t know.
"The finding that 44% of the personal devices which currently access corporate servers and email systems are not encrypted, serves to emphasise the need for a comprehensive device management programme. And it is no surprise therefore, that data protection heads the list of challenges identified by businesses implementing BYO."
Indeed, 63% indicated that data protection was the main challenge in BYOD, followed by appropriate data access (38%), managing the range of personal devise (25%) and network infrastructure (21%), though when compared overall, as opposed to the main challenge alone, data protection and appropriate data access are neck and neck.
Outside of the usual values cited around productivity, flexibility and choice in BYOD, the nearly half of respondents believe that a BYOD policy can help to attract and retain the best talent.
"Despite the current high levels of unemployment there is a skills shortage emerging in particular sectors," said Mortimer. "It is significant that 45% of respondents believe that a BYO policy can not only attract but retain the best talent-the more skilled the employee, the more likely that this is the case."
However, the don’t knows on this point was at its highest at 22%.
It is often said that Ireland is typically six to 12 months behind the curve on ICT trends, but it seems that this is not the case when it comes to enterprise applications for mobility. A third of respondents said they had already implemented one or more with 9% saying that they will do so over the next 12 months. A further 26% are considering implementation with less than a third (31%) saying they had no plans.
"Another interesting finding is that two thirds of organisations surveyed have already implemented enterprise mobility apps or are considering doing so. This reflects our own experience on the ground that there is not only increasing interest but implementation of mobile apps. The survey suggests that this will be a big growth area over the next 12 months."
The landscape that emerges from this survey is one of overwhelming demand, expectation and acceptance of this trend, from the user side. But when it is contrasted with certain global statistics, it makes for a sobering experience. According to Ovum, up to 80% of personal devices used to access business systems are unmanaged (Ovum, 2012). Going further, Ovum research reports that nearly half of IT departments were either unaware of personal device usage or ignoring it, with 8% actively discouraging it.
With the level of unrecorded and unencrypted personal devices accessing business systems, it would appear that again Ireland is not far behind the curve in this more unfortunate aspect of the ICT trend.
With more being done by vendors to make tools available to manage both devices and data, there are options available to IT departments to make these facilities and services secure.
"Given the role of mobile operators as suppliers of devices, data and ICT services, we are very active in this space and have launched a range of tools and services for Enterprise Mobility under our ‘Joined Up People’ theme," said Mortimer. "This proposition offers a combination of consultancy, communications products, mobile device management and application design. The tools are delivered through a range of managed services designed to help organisations to meet these challenges."
And challenges clearly there are in this field, if the survey is to be believed. Rarely has there been such a widespread phenomenon where the implementation, in terms of the use of personal devices, was so far in advance of the controls necessary to ensure that data is protected and accessed appropriately, while protecting the network and the business.