BYOD: Lessons Learned (Thus Far)

Today’s workers are tech-savvy, mobile, and always-on, and they are increasingly on the move, whether roaming about on a corporate campus, visiting a branch office, working on the road, or doing their job from a home office.

From the millennial masses up through the C-suite, employees are using personal technology—be it laptops, tablets, smartphones, or cloud computing services accessing their companies’ networks—at work, fueling the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.

It’s generating a lot of buzz about BYOD, and depending on who’s doing the talking, conversations tend to center around productivity (end-users), security/privacy (CIOs and IT departments), or cost (finance folks).

SummaLogic’s Robert Keahey chummed the BYOD waters recently at focus.com when he wrote: “We’re a couple of years into this new paradigm, and with the use of SaaS, cloud-based integrated business suites and digital supply chains on the rise, we should step back and see what we’ve learned.

Has BYOD helped or hindered your business model? Has IT been able to respond to this challenge/opportunity? … What are your experiences (or those of the companies with which you work)? Success stories? Horror stories?”

BYOD class is now in session…

Jeff Gullang, controller at FiveCubits, is all about security and spelling out the BYOD rules and regulations for employees. Gullang stresses that BYOD users must be told that “even though it is your device, you are still accessing company property…and possibly the company is paying for the service that allows you to access the network; BB server, MS Exchange, etc. When the employee is no longer with the company, the company has the right to secure their property. It could be trade secrets, customer lists, or other sensitive documents.”

To achieve that level of security, Gullang suggests removing the application or sensitive information from the device—but warns that “depending how this is done, it could cause personal data to be lost; pictures, music, etc. Many companies are requiring employees to sign a document that spells this out.” It’s a “gray area if the company is not paying for the data services,” he surmises, “but I think this would hold up in law if they do.”

Anders Trolle-Schultz, managing partner at SaaS-it Consult, prefers to accentuate the positive (and suggests that companies stop focusing on the negative): “Instead of focusing on…all the obstacles, let us look at what we really are trying to achieve. Because what we are trying to achieve is actually ‘Give the user the same user-experience as they have as a consumer.’

It’s all about the GUI/NUI, and that doesn’t have to be with a focus only on the device itself. If Microsoft is able to convince consumers to move to the new Metro—oops, sorry—Windows 8 look (and enterprises follow), the need for BYOD will be less, as the cross-platform experience will be similar, whether you use a phone, tablet, laptop or PC. Most importantly will be the touch capability.”

Finally, Justin Pirie, cloud strategist at Mimecast, suggest that a methodic, systematic approach is the best way to keep BYOD concerns from getting blown out of proportion. Pirie echoes Trolle-Schultz’s “give the people what they want” sentiment, saying “What are users wanting?”

He points to research that shows BYOD users most often want mail, contacts, and calendars. “Is that such a big deal? I don’t think so. Especially when, out of the box with Exchange 2010, you can enforce a pin lock and perform a remote wipe on the device.” If your company needs more granular control of devices, Pirie recommends Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions, but warns “you need to know exactly what you’re trying to achieve before you deploy these solutions.”

The real challenge, Pirie thinks, isn’t the users or the devices. The issue of control is at the heart of BYOD concerns: “The real challenge here is for traditional IT folks, as it further breaks their ability to control everything, just like SaaS/cloud. But control does not necessarily equal security, as many security breaches show. What is essential is we understand the risks and put controls against them.”

What effect is BYOD having on your business? Has your corporate data been compromised? Has productivity been boosted or busted? Have business software providers (Oracle, SAP, Salesforce, et al) adapted their products to your satisfaction? Share your wins, worries, and losses in the comments.

About the Author

Alec Wagner is a writer, editor, custom content specialist, and content marketing professional. A former managing editor of infoworld.com, he has trained his eye on the enterprise technology space for more than a dozen years. A longtime digital nomad, he divides his time between San Francisco and the South of France. He remembers to thank The Cloud daily for enabling his globetrotting ways, and brings as many devices to as many places as possible.

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