No one likes to give away control, particularly if the buck is still going to stop with them. This is very much the case with IT departments, which, being ultimately responsible for the security and smooth running of critical systems, are having to come to terms with a reality in which even the guy who mops the floor has an iPhone in his pocket.
While bring your own device (BYOD) is a pretty simple concept that could open doors to more agile and flexible ways of working, it is also easy to see how it could open a complex can of worms. Above and beyond the obvious security implications of employees mixing work and (possibly dubious) play on their own devices, it is the knock-on effects of the changes being brought about by the consumerisation of IT that CIOs are trying to predict to work out where best to position themselves on the spectrum between choice and control.
How can control be maintained over data that is spread over thousands of personal devices? What about the costs and technician time required to support multiple fast-changing platforms? Will BYOD inevitably lead to more flexible working? What about the impact on procurement when individuals and departments make their own arrangements? How to ensure that control over the core infrastructure is not handed over along with the right to work where, when and how employees choose?
A recent Computing survey sought to ascertain how IT managers view the wild west of BYOD and how they are seeking to tame the new landscape.
Bring it or choose it?
Those embracing BYOD are in a minority. Asked about the overall mobile strategy at their organisation, just 20 per cent stated that they are pursuing a BYOD policy, with more and more staff using their own devices for work (figure 1).
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But the picture is a little more complicated than it might seem. Among that 20 per cent pursuing a BYOD policy, the vast majority also claim to offer a choice of devices provided by the company. Is this just a stepping stone to “pure” BYOD where users buy their own device? Do the two systems co-exist, or is there some confusion over terms?
Chances are it’s the latter two: co-existence and confusion.
Anecdotally many CIOs have told Computing that they view BYOD as a flash-in-the-pan, driven largely by vendors and a tech media ever hungry for a new acronym. In fact, they say, when it comes to technology, most organisations are innately conservative, especially if change means IT relinquishing control or where regulators have real bite. While the CEO’s iPad and salespeople’s Galaxies might be allowed to connect, that’s as far as it goes for many CIOs.
Hype leads to confusion and the impression that things are changing faster than they really are. In many sectors the “mobile revolution” has scarcely made itself felt in terms of changed working practices. And even in those industries where it has – media and the NHS among them – many IT heads, while acknowledging the need to make overtures to consumer choice, see no reason to open the floodgates to every shiny new toy on the market even if somehow it can be made secure. The increased support costs, integration issues and general hassle just rule this out.