- Ignoring the impact of smartphones in the workplace is no longer an option.
- A well constructed BYOD policy will deliver security and productivity benefits.
BT has this week gone to market with its latest bring your own device (BYOD) proposition, its BT Advise BYOD Quick Start suite, which includes monitoring and security services. BT’s launch has been backed by an accompanying white paper ‘Bring Your Own Device’. The conclusions of this report provide further proof that (as this writer has previously argued) enterprises can no longer afford to be without a BYOD policy. The research suggests that around 50% of employees are now formally allowed to use their mobile devices at work, but that actual usage rates are significantly higher. In other words, most companies now know that preventing mobile device usage is a losing battle. What is more significant for enterprises, however, is that 60% of the surveyed IT managers felt that using smart devices in the workplace increased worker efficiency and 84% of IT managers surveyed believe that a BYOD policy confers a competitive advantage, with 31% suggesting that a BYOD policy gives a ‘significant advantage’. Of employees surveyed, 59% stated that they use personal devices to access files from company servers. With productivity advantages on one side and real security risks on the other, perhaps the biggest surprise in BT and Cisco’s white paper was that the research suggested that the number of enterprises with an official BYOD policy in place has fallen.
Even given the benefits of having a BYOD policy, it is, perhaps, understandable that a large number of enterprises do not have one. Some enterprises will argue that a blanket ban is a policy, and it is arguable that this is a more secure policy that helps to prevent mobile devices being used by employees to bring home data that should not leave corporate premises. Some IT managers highlight compliance concerns as a reason for not creating a BYOD policy. However, these concerns go against normal human behaviour. Banning smartphone usage in the vast majority of circumstances is a largely futile gesture – as any trip to the cinema will highlight. Compliance issues can be harder to judge and there will be circumstance where a total ban is the right option, no matter how difficult to enforce. However, it is also becoming clearer that a well written BYOD policy can form part of a broader compliance strategy. BYOD and mobile device management (MDM) are often viewed separately. However, as providers such as BT, Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom (amongst others) have shown with solutions delivered over the last 12 months is that BYOD and MDM are essentially now the same thing. If part of MDM is seen as control and visibility over mobile device access to the corporate network then regulating employees own devices must be part of that strategy. Enterprises should also be aware that corporate WiFi should be seen as part of the solution. As well as the cost saving possibilities of services such as voice over WiFi, driving mobile devices to the corporate WiFi, both for employees and guests/visitors, increases the potential for controlling access.