Tackling BYOD within Your Organization

By Michael Osterman

The movement toward Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) and Bring Your Own Applications (BYOA) – or BYODA – has been building since about 2007, when the Apple iPhone was introduced. BYODA has now become a major trend in most organizations, both big and small. In many companies, it’s the dominant way for users to access corporate systems and cloud-based applications from smartphones and tablets. Are you prepared for this mighty IT trend?

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WHY BYODA IN THE FIRST PLACE?
The trend toward BYODA, or consumerized IT, is being driven by two key issues:

  • IT is often constrained by limited budgets and their need to demonstrate a business case and return on investment for new purchases. Employees, on the other hand, face no such restrictions. Because employees are primarily consumers, their decision process is influenced to a much greater extent by the “coolness” of new mobile platforms and the ease with which new mobile apps or cloud-based applications can be procured and installed on these devices.
  • Because IT must take into account the needs of all users, the restrictions placed on them by legal and regulatory considerations, the business case for new technology and the scarcity of available resources, CIOs and IT managers often cannot satisfy every need. This means that users either live with restrictions they don’t like, or they circumvent them. A growing number of users have opted for the latter.

BYODA IS A GOOD THING
BYODA can bring many benefits to the business. It enables users to have continuous access to critical communications tools like email, real-time messaging and social media. They can connect to corporate applications and the files they need to do their work, and this can be done from virtually any location at any time. Moreover, BYODA enables employees to be more productive and companies to be more cost-effective, agile and innovative in how they engage with customers, partners, suppliers and prospects.

BYODA IS A BAD THING
However, BYODA also brings with it a number of problems. These include more difficulty in supporting users, an increased likelihood of introducing malware into the corporate network, extra effort in managing content for purposes of eDiscovery or regulatory compliance and more problematic governance of corporate information and processes.

THE IT RESPONSE TO BYODA
Many IT departments have acquiesced to the BYODA trend and are becoming less vigorous in their opposition to the use of personally owned devices and employee-deployed applications. Because many organizations are realizing the various benefits offered by BYODA, employees are generally becoming freer in how they choose and use mobile devices and the growing number of mobile apps and cloud-based services available to them. In short, many IT decision makers have simply decided to live with the new realities of a consumerized IT world rather than fight what most perceive to be a losing battle.

That said, while IT may have warmed to the notion of BYODA, they must manage a number of problems that BYODA introduces:

  • The necessity of supporting all of the devices that employees use for work purposes, including personally owned and company-supplied iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones, Android tablets, Windows Phones and BlackBerry smartphones, puts an additional strain on IT departments that normally face resource constraints already.
  • Providing support for multiple versions of mobile operating systems (a very serious problem for organizations that permit the use of Android devices) adds to IT support requirements.
  • Supporting the growing number of cloud-based and mobile applications is not easy. These tools provide a number of features and functions that users find valuable, such as synchronizing files between corporate data stores and cloud-based repositories and sharing large files that cannot be sent through corporate email. However, while useful, these applications can make support substantially more difficult than it would be if IT were completely in charge of which applications users employed.

THE NEED FOR BETTER SUPPORT
BYODA offers a number of benefits, but IT’s ability to support the new consumerized environment is not keeping up with user demands. IT staff need a way to efficiently and cost-effectively manage the new infrastructure without putting restrictions on how employees operate and which tools they use to do their work.

IT must be able to satisfy complex service desk requirements, because there are now more demands on the help desk than ever before. And just as critical, IT needs to monitor, track and manage every device and application on their network, including the platforms and applications that employees use.

Today, most organizations have not deployed the support tools they need to properly manage their largely consumerized IT infrastructure. But laying the right support foundation for BYODA is essential, because by embracing the trend, IT can better balance the competing demands of user productivity, network protection, cost containment and operational efficiency.

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