The consumerization of IT, led by the “Bring Your Own Device,” phenomenon, is an unstoppable trend. Employees expect to and do bring their own smartphones, laptops and tablet computers into the office.
When employees have mobile access to corporate networks, they can transition between business and leisure seamlessly, allowing them to work from anywhere, anytime. As work is increasingly conducted outside the office, work life and personal life begins to merge, this rapid trend toward corporate network mobility is changing the workplace, including employees’ lifestyles and business operations.
According to a recent survey by the Aberdeen Group nearly two-thirds (72%) of IT organizations reported that they support “bring your own device” initiatives. Of that group, 46% said they support any device and 26% said they only support devices from an approved company list.
The need for a BYOD Policy
Mobile devices have transformed over the years, with sophisticated features like multi-touch interfaces, dual core processors, cameras capable of recording 1080p video at 30 fps, and a front-facing VGA camera for videoconferencing. These applications run on iOS or Android operating systems, and as such, mobile devices are the new desktops.
With new and more powerful mobile devices continuously flooding the market, organisations that opt to deploy a single standard for employees will be forever behind the technology curve. At the same time, providing very employee with the latest mobile device is simply too costly and time-consuming. Employees on the other hand, can and will either upgrade or change their mobile devices as soon as the next one is available. As the workplace landscape across the globe changes, organisations must react to deliver the employees’ growing demands, for greater flexibility and the desired need to securely access the corporate network anywhere, anytime, on any device.
Supporting this trend and learning how to manage disparate devices across the corporate network is not something organisations should do to boost productivity; it is something they must do to stay relevant and ahead of their competitors.
The Benefits of BYOD
The integration of mobile devices into corporate network is cost-effective for an organisation, allowing them to turn mobile devices into powerful business assets whilst empowering for employees, therefore access to the corporate network must be made easy-to-use and available to all employees who need access, regardless of where they are working or on which device.
In a recent survey the most requested applications employees requested was email and document sharing followed closely by video conferencing, IM, access to company databases and seamless synchronization with other business devices.
Organisations that incorporate unified communications, like voice, presence, video conferencing, instance messaging and chat capabilities will make it easier for employees to share information, locate experts, improve decision-making and drive productivity.
In a recently published whitepaper by the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCI Forum), it’s stated that “one important driver for the growth of unified communications is mobility and the remote worker. No segment is growing faster than mobile communications, and virtually every mobile device will be equipped with video chat, IM, directory, and other unified communication features within a few years.”
The Value of Mobile Unified Communications
To remain competitive organisations must find ways to allow their employees to communicate and collaborate seamlessly anytime, anywhere, and from any device. By providing employees access to technology that supports and encourages not just communication but true collaboration, an organisation can benefit from a more flexible work environment that provides greater workforce mobility, productivity and satisfaction whilst gaining competitive advantage and staying ahead of the technology curve.
Key features required for business mobile devices include:
- Presence. This feature allows employees to see their colleagues’ status, such as availability and location, so they can readily reach them. It also supports a single number for employees across all communication devices.
- Core business functions. Mobile devices are now integrated with email, calendars, contact lists, and directories and easily support access to relevant business applications. Access to the Internet and other data sources changes the mobile device to an essential business tool.
- Unified messaging. Integration with unified messaging is a core feature for business mobile devices and allows users to receive both voice and text messages and provides the sender to respond either by voice or email.
- Access to business applications. Companies have their own unique set of core applications required for business. Mobile devices will support easy access to these business applications, so employees have information they need available regardless of location.
- Video Integration. Employees can enjoy exceptional high quality video, continuous presence to view multiple users simultaneously and telepresence connectivity whilst maintaining robust enterprise security, providing seamless connectivity across corporate boundaries.
- Companies can seamlessly connect their local sales teams with product experts who can participate in sales calls and support new revenue opportunities.
- Product groups can meet and collaborate across the globe more easily with interactive meetings that support collaborative interactive sessions from a telepresence environment to the employee mobile device.
- Business managers, who would traditionally meet for a face-to-face meeting, can build close relationships without travel and encourages more frequent contact.
- Interoperability: Organisations have a diverse range of systems installed in their environments and in order for them to leverage existing investments, interoperability is critical to reduce complexity and operational cost.
BYOD of course creates the uncertainty and concerns by IT departments on how to manage security, device management and application management. How can such a policy be successful with all the disparate platforms, operating systems, and user interfaces? It can, with proper planning and mobile device management strategy (MDM).
Key consideration for a MDM strategy
- Define requirements
- Be selective when planning and prioritizing mobility projects.
- Develop an acceptable user and security policy.
- Can employees use their own mobile devices for work purposes, or will you issue company devices?
- Which applications are required, allowed, or forbidden?
- What procedures must they follow in case of loss or theft?
- Adopt a device and carrier mobile management solution that lets your IT staff view, report on, restrict, and support users’ mobile capabilities.
- Choose mobile versions of your back-end applications–or mobile solutions that integrate smoothly with existing systems–so your mobile workers can access and share data in real-time
- To safeguard critical data, require regular backups as well as password protection and encryption on all mobile devices.
- Install security software that can wipe a device’s memory remotely when the device connects to the corporate network after being reported lost or stolen, and/or automatically after a certain number of incorrect passwords.
- Create and issue a mobility policy to all users
- Constantly evaluate your mobility projects.
- Erase and reformat mobile devices before disposing of them
With the increased uptake and availability of the Cloud which offers “real time” applications, such as unified communications, organisations are deploying a cloud-based solution to manage security, device management and application management for disparate mobile devices.
The advantage of a cloud-based solution allows organizations to use the infrastructure and management solution hosted in the cloud which simplifies and speeds up deployment processes without the major investment in hardware and staff investment. The ability to deploy policy and application updates to disparate mobile devices immediately and securely will likely accelerate implementation and increase user productivity by increasing reliability, scalability and security.
A cloud-based solution should:
- Reduced risk to a great extent with a complete insight of all business operations
- Provide organisations with greater operational efficiencies with a single system to secure all mobile devices on both the company- and user-owned
- Enhance data and device security and compliance with direct visibility into mobile device-level information
- Centralized policy management across multiple platforms
- Ensure compliance to industry regulations through automated processes
- Provide a flexible and effective cost model
- Enable ongoing, seamless support for the latest devices and operating systems
- Develop and expand the cloud services as and when needed over time
The Juniper report titled, “Mobile Cloud: Smart Device Strategies for Enterprise & Consumer Markets 2011-2016,” shows spending on unified communication services – such as messaging, managed e-mail, collaboration, conferencing and IP telephony – will increase over the next five years with cloud services sales expected to reach $39bn by 2016.
BYOD holds tremendous promise. Whilst many organisations look at this trend as a possible way to reduce costs; the real value is in increasing employee’s satisfaction and productivity, while speeding up the rate of technology adoption into the work environment.
Organisations that lay the groundwork with comprehensive management and control of employee-owned mobile devices will be in a strong position to capitalise on productivity-enhancing services, like video collaboration, a significant new trend emerging in mobile unified communications.
The fact, there’s no stopping consumerization of mobile devices and their penetration into the work environment. Gartner predicted that by 2014 “90% of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices.” Organisations must take advantage of the next wave of business growth and opportunity, and accommodate their employees as they embrace extended mobile responsibilities, or the employees will continue to find ways to do it for themselves.
Business mobility is and will become an important aspect not only on how we do business today but how business will evolve.