Companies around the world are predicting that BYOD is the next trend but, in fact, as businesses and the IT ecosystem evolve, BYOD is already a term that’s looking dated.
Any CIO or IT manager will have been bombarded, over the past six months, with hype or headaches about “BYOD”, or, Bring Your Own Device. Companies around the world are predicting that BYOD is the next trend but, in fact, as businesses and the IT ecosystem evolve, BYOD is already a term that’s looking dated. Not because employees will stop bringing their own devices to work – quite the contrary – but that businesses will be forced to adapt, adopt and accept it.
Pejman Roshan, Senior Director of Product Line Management for Mobility at ShoreTel, thinks that BYOD is really more of a symptom than a trend. “What we are starting to see,” he says, “is there’s a growing level of end users around technology.” A cliched example, he said, would be his kids at home. All three are adept at using mobile devices, from Android to Apple. “My youngest is a four year old who, a couple of weeks ago, much to the chagrin of my wife, was showing her how to use the iPad.” It is totally indicative, he says, of young people entering the work force. And that is why BYOD is not a future trend but a necessity. Just like how, decades ago, older CEOs would struggle to type because the typing pool had it covered, now, end users are demanding that the products they are familiar with are usable in the workplace.
Although this may feel like a headache for the current generation of CIOs and IT managers, as younger generations get promoted and the usability of consumer technology in business environments improves even further, a working environment where you cannot use your own devices will look increasingly draconian. Companies such as Good Technology and IT bellwether Cisco would agree.
Murali Nemani, senior director, service provider mobility at Cisco, thinks BYOD paints a picture of where Cisco is at in enterprise. With its latest big announcement at Mobile World Congress – about relieving the burden of data from 3G and 4G by putting it onto flexible, secure wi-fi – Cisco is making sure that products can be brought onto an enterprise environment. “What happens when you leave?” Nemani asked. “What Cisco is doing in that space is a major play. It is how you make the life of the IT CIO and manager less complex. When your employee decides to be nomadic with their devices, like in a hospital environment, our platform will automatically decide the level of security available, and it will change the policy setting of the application to comply with what the network knows. So, if you’re in a hotspot zone that is not trusted, access to that is denied.”
Even in highly sensitive environments like hospitals – where doctors must strictly obey the Health Information Protection Act in the US and similar policies here in Europe – BYOD is a reality, just as it is in financial institutions. Nemani says Cisco technology is taking app level requirements and travesing that to comply with network parameters, “no matter where you are”, so the user can authenticate with clients a certain level of security and conditions.
Although RIM has traditionally been the go-to for robust, enterprise security, Cisco, Good, Shoretel and many others are either adjusting their products to work securely on the app level or that is the selling point. The demand for it is clear. “Poor old Blackberry,” Shoretel’s Roshan says. “I mean, really, talk about a story that is almost tabloid worthy. We haven’t observed any BYOD deployments around the Blackberry, even though it remains a large market share in the enterprise. What we’ve seen gaining momentum is clearly iOS, by a significant lead over Android.” That said, the closed nature of iOS can be detrimental for the most part – one of the most frustrating aspects about Apple, Roshan thinks, is that it doesn’t release its roadmaps. Those are par for the course for vendors. CIOs need to know what the companies are doing over the next year, so they know their investments will be sound.
Even the baby booming generation, Roshan points out, which has been typically more conservative is far more technology savvy than it used to be. “I’m talking about people in their fifties and sixties,” he says, “who are very well versed in how to use mobile devices. To the point where they’re confident that they know how best to be most productive. That’s really what is happening.”
Roshan says people are increasingly turning to the IT departments and saying to them, they know how to squeeze productivity out of working. The devices they are being told to use are just not as productive as their own. Although IT departments have been saying a resounding no, those people that are bringing in those devices, Rosham says, are moving their level of authority up a step on the ladder: “Now you have CIOs, CEOs, CFOs bringing them in – they are now saying, ‘You will find a way to accommodate this technology.'”
During a talk in Canada, Roshan says he encountered a “terrified executive”, who said that there was no way he could support every Android device out there. Which is “completely understandable”. The middle ground is the way forward: you pick what you can support, and those that you can’t support are left to their own devices, they won’t be able to use company apps and won’t be supported by the help desk. But opening the range of devices up means more and more employees will be able to bring their own devices to work.
Like Plato’s analogy about leaving the cave, BYOD is a door the world has walked through, and it can’t go back. “We have walked through it now,” Roshan says. “It won’t be called BYOD five years from now.”