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Big Biz agrees: BYOB, flexible working to become more pervasive

Consumerisation of IT on the increase

A survey from Virgin Media released earlier this week pointed out that over half of the UK’s mobile workers believe connectivity would shorten their working day, but have said that they don’t think it would improve their work life balance.

Considering the proliferation and inevitable consumerisation – it is already happening – of business devices, is this the case?

Virgin’s study noted that, of those that it surveyed, the majority did not think blanket connectivity would increase the likelihood of them working from home more often, though they did agree that, overall, it was good for work. Workers were more able to access their emails and deal with emergencies, should they arise, promptly. Tied in with the BYOD – or CYOD – trend, whether or not this sort of attitude is good for the workers themselves, the fact is, it is worker driven.

Nick Webb, head of solutions marketing at Vodafone Global Enterprise, said, speaking with ChannelBiz UK, that for the most part it is driven by the workers. “They are wanting to have an IT experience which is comparable to what they use at home – so it is reasonable to assume they would be happy with it”.

According to Webb, the whole phenomenon is “unquestionably” driven by the end user rather than the organisation. “The organisations are probably behind the end users on this,” he said, “and in some cases are reluctantly being dragged into it”.

Talking to Vodafone’s customers, Webb says that they are exploring whether they can make their own organisations more flexible because in doing so, they are able to call in people from a further geographical field, and at the same time, their end users have more influence over their work life balance.

“BYOD comes from the perspective of end users being able to use the tools of their choice, rather than being given another device by the organisation that may not be to their taste,” Webb said. “We have seen that extending into the applications they want to use as well, and this is starting to influence the notion of flexible working – there’s no question in our minds flexible working is growing”.

Vodafone is seeing an increase across its customer base, and so far it is the multinationals that need to be ahead of the curve in these areas, Webb said. BYOD, then, is pushing consumerisation and hybrid approach ways to working, naturally. “Now we are seeing customers’ attitudes change,” Webb said. They are asking themselves what the benefits are if they embrace BYOD, and there seem to be several. “The attitude will change so that an individual, when they start working, will bring their phones just as they bring their suits with them,” Webb said.

“Because the handset is such a personal device customers are starting to see them in the same light – the analogy we use to illustrate the point is if a plumber comes to fix something in your house, you don’t insist that you use the tools you provide”.

The plumber uses his own, and because of it, is more efficient. And you don’t have to buy your own whole set of tools.

Of course, there are all sorts of areas businesses will need to think about, and one of the primary concerns is with security. When a device is used in a personal and business capacity, challenges emerge: what if someone wants to sell their device, as they have the right to? Or what if they simply leave it in a cab, with sensitive information on it?

There are managed services out there, but Webb believes the next step is dual persona technologies, the logical devision between work and play, where there is a containerised version on the device that carries the company data, so an organisation can apply security policies to specific areas within it.

Webb’s thoughts on BYOD and flexible working are largely in line with this year’s Evolving Workforce report from Dell and Intel. Fergus Murphy, marketing director of client solutions for Dell EMEA, told ChannelBiz UK that the results of the study support the notion that there’s a growing correlation between quality and levels of choices in the workplace, and employee satisfaction and productivity.

“In fact,” Murphy said, “77 percent of UK respondents believe ubiquitous connectivity and advances in technology have increased worker productivity and 66 percent believe that technology advances enable them to make bigger contributions to their organisations.
“Businesses can no longer ignore the IT consumerisation phenomenon and should assess how best to adapt IT to meet growing employee demands,” Murphy added.

“There is an opportunity for IT departments to reinvigorate the workforce and supply them with better technologies and harness greater worker productivity – whether they are at home, in the office or on the move.”

At the same time, Murphy believes, companies must be prepared to address security risks and IT complexity. “This means adopting a tailored approach that is specific to an organisation’s circumstances and that builds consensus among workers and business leaders, set within clear parameters around levels of technology choice,” Murphy said, “be it offering a BYOD policy or offering a set of form factors employees can choose from”.

According to Murphy and the research, there appears to be a conscious effort underway by business to look at and find the ideal answers that address the associated challenges while enjoying the benefits. “Thus,” Murphy said, “unleashing happier and more productive workers”.

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