Survey findings say companies support BYOD trend; reality on ground may be different
BYOD to be adopted in phases rather than through rip-and-replace; culture still greatest impediment
Periscope by Edwin Yapp
IN a story Digital News Asia (DNA) ran yesterday (Dec 11), Ovum noted that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is becoming very popular among multinational corporations (MNCs) in Asia Pacific, with over 70% of surveyed companies saying they already have policies to support approved employee-owned devices.
The analyst firm said despite the large number of MNCs embracing this trend, however, support was initially limited to certain areas and roles within the organization.
Claudio Castelli, Ovum senior analyst, enterprise telecoms, said: “The growing acceptance of the BYOD trend by IT departments, and the greater need to mobilize data applications and support a broader range of mobile devices, mean that CIOs (chief information officers) are struggling to define their enterprise mobility strategy.”
“This is even more challenging for MNCs in Asia Pacific, which have to cope with the various aspects of mobility across a region that is extremely fragmented in terms of service availability, network quality, workplace practices, culture, and regulatory environment,” he added.
That got me thinking about how very often, survey results of one trend is tightly coupled to certain caveats, and these serve as impediments to further adoption. In this case, it’s certainly true that while 70% of surveyed companies say they have policies to support the BYOD trend, this support is limited.
Throughout this year, as DNA and I covered various events focused on BYOD, I find this to be true of this trend too.
Just taking a straw poll of the number of surveys that I’ve reported on and the anecdotal conversations I’ve had with IT executives from the vendor as well as the customer end, I’ve come to the conclusion that while the BYOD trend is definitely on the mouths of these executives, the end goal of the BYOD trend is still some way off.
This reminds me of an interview I did with David Johnson, an analyst from Forrester Research, who told me in May this year that one of the greatest challenges for enterprises to adopt BYOD is that they don’t know how to go about taking the first steps to do so.
He said that the first thing any company would have to do if it were to consider BYOD policies is to implement a rational way to determine who in the company is a good fit for the practice of BYOD.
Recounting from my interview with him, Johnson said that based on Forrester's research, there are six questions that a company should consider, and they are:
Whether employees are telecommuting or office based;
How much access they have to privileged information;
What the regulatory requirements are for those employees;
Whether they have any software applications dependencies such as switching from Windows to Macs;
How technically savvy employees are, as some workers can support themselves while others can't; and
How much employees travel, how mobile they are.
Johnson said such questions would help companies narrow down who would qualify for a BYOD policy as not everyone in a company would need to bring their own devices.
Apart from considering some of these questions and contextualizing them for each individual enterprise, organizations must also realize that as with many IT trends that hit the world, it must be viewed as a journey rather than a single event in time.
This is where advice from BYOD player Citrix Systems makes sense.
Companies should take baby steps to implementing a BYOD policy as it's unnecessary to gear the entire organization towards such a move, its senior vice president of the desktop and cloud division Gordon Payne said earlier this year.
"Go through the standard questions of evaluating based on return-on-investments, capital expenditure and security. Rely on experts to help you through the transitions, establish a solid framework and plan of implementation, and make your applications for BYOD user-centric. In the old world, you could force employees to use unattractive apps but today you can't."
That said, as much as IT departments and even CIOs may try to push for BYOD adoption, there is still one 'enemy' that could resist change: Legacy, both in terms of mindset and IT systems.
Candidly admitting this was Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix, who told me that people may argue that work shifting – to move away from working from a fixed location – is not in keeping with certain cultures, and there may be older, traditional ways of thinking about work, that is, work being a place rather than a thing that you do.
"I [also] think there are obstacles around government regulations and regulators because governments tend to be laggards and they hold back some of the enterprises that want to do new things, including whether it applies to privacy of information, or rules around the workforce, what you are allowed or not allowed to do, in terms of managing the workforce.
"Those who are from this legacy culture must be 'forced into the future,' including being forced by a new generation of workers who will push the envelope. These would then eventually become leaders, who will then define policies of how things work [for the future].
So Gen-Y to the rescue eh? Could this be true?
What about you? How will 2013 be any different from this year, as far as BYOD is concerned? Well, for starters, I for one will be speaking to these vendors and end users, and asking them if anything has changed after a year, and if so, what has.
In the meantime, do share with DNA, by adding a comment to this story, on what your own thoughts are on BYOD, and whether or not your organization has begun this journey, what your main challenges are, and how you plan to overcome them.
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