Byod for Enterprises

Anil Keswani Founder, CEO, Z-Aksys Solutions

Consulting firm Gartner, in a new research report says half of the world’s companies will implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs by 2017, completely replacing employer-offered computing devices. What does that mean for the organization/enterprise? Barring hardware needing specialized computing requirements, most communications and computing devices shall be consumer devices.

Where it all began
The device. The starting point of today’s battle of the devices arguably can be the advent of the company-issued BlackBerry that set apart the haves and have-nots within the Corporate World. You either had one, or you didn’t. And holding it in your hand at meetings, conferences, black-tie events, lunch meetings, job interviews, airport lounges, and quintessentially, to the washroom (first thing, straight out of bed) was the ultimate testament to your indispensability within the Corporate Hierarchy.
Till it became the collegian’s device (See: Blackberry boy’s Ad by Vodafone).

What is amazing is the speed at which the landscape has changed with respect to communications, mobility, and of course, devices. Trends and/or visuals from as recent as five-years-ago seem to be from an era where black-and-white movies and radio sets were the norm, before the arrival of television and later, the Internet. The every-where, always-on Internet-enabled world we live in today has Mail (personal, corporate), apps (personal, corporate), calls (personal, corporate), banking (personal, corporate), utilities (personal, corporate), reporting (to the wife, and the boss), and everything else happening in real time. And as a young India that was born into the ubiquitous cellphone era enters the workforce, its connectivity, wifi, data, and devices that now define workplace culture.

Riding the cloud
On the back of the device rides another, slightly taken-for-granted revolution: The Cloud.
For all the devices to work, or shall we say, for people to stay connected from everywhere, using virtually any piece of computing or communications hardware they can lay there hands on, they need two things: connectivity, and the Cloud where everything lives. Though considered to be rather nascent at the present stage, this sector holds promise of mammoth proportions. While employee’s BYOD devices usually access legacy organizational IT systems that have been reworked to allow for connectivity over virtual private networks or through secured access methods, the coming Cloud Computing revolution (including “infrastructure as a service”) has the potential to alter the course of things when it comes to established ways of purchasing, designing and using IT hardware.

Why BYOD works
BYOD policies are reported to favor improved productivity due to greater employee satisfaction and reduction in costs, since the average cost of employer-provided devices is $600 per employee, annually.  Compliance and IT security are the main areas of concern when it comes to adoption of a BYOD program. Loss of data, loss of the device itself, and loss of productivity in such cases till a replacement arrives are business-critical issues that organizations need to take into account while implementing a BYOD program.

While functions such as sales, supported by other IT and communications apps and initiatives, tend to benefit from BYOD, others requiring more intensive computing such as analytics or design may find their use limited to the more communications-oriented functions. Security of corporate data (especially when it comes to IPR and related areas) and the possible loss of employee productivity on account of a blending of the personal and professional use are also areas of concern presently in the Indian scenario, where a lot of times employees are reluctant to draw a line between what is appropriate use professionally and their personal freedoms on account of owning the hardware.

Boon or bane?

For small and medium enterprises, BYOD is mostly a boon. With most business communications functions happening over handheld devices, it cuts the organization’s need to invest in hardware, and as a consequence of that, be rescued from the cost of expensive hardware upgrades. With BYOD users reporting better productivity using their own devices, this double edge sword only helps their cause.

For larger organizations, however, the pros and cons come in equal measure. While potentially benefiting from the higher productivity of a larger workforce using their own devices and saving some of that $600 per employee per annum costs in hardware on a larger employee base, organizations need to draw several fine lines between economic gains from BYOD and limiting a multitude of risks that come along with trying to run a business where information is potentially not secure, and residing on devices not owned by the organization.

As business adopts more cloud-based infrastructure services, the BYOD trend is bound to gain momentum. At some point within a few years, hiring, firing, and all the aspects of an employee’s life cycle in between those two monumental organizational events, will be done not at the click of a button, but perhaps, via a few finger taps. In a bathroom, somewhere in a city or village in India, at 6 am, just after a cup of morning tea. On a device not owned by the organization.