Two important and related trends already having a significant impact on day-to-day operations at a rapidly growing number of businesses are BYOD (bring your own device) and BYOA (bring your own application). The trends are continuing to grow in all but the most security-restricted organizations, says Chris Townsend, vice president, Federal and Mid-Atlantic, at Stonesoft, a provider of integrated network security solutions. Market researcher Gartner Inc. predicts that almost four in 10 organizations will rely exclusively on BYOD-- meaning they will no longer provide any devices to employees-- by 2016, and 85 percent of businesses will have some kind of BYOD program in place by 2020.
Small and medium-sized businesses have been at the forefront of the BYOD trend, with almost 62 percent of U.S. SMBs having an official BYOD policy in place as of 2013, according to research conducted by iGR, a wireless and mobile communications consulting firm. At least another 10 percent lack an official policy but allow employees to use their personal devices to perform work-related tasks.
“The consumer-driven and ubiquitous nature of mobile devices is creating a nearly unstoppable force in the business space,” says Chad Udell, managing director of Float Mobile Learning, a consulting, application development, and training and education firm. “Simply put, people have these devices, and they want to use them.” He adds that employees’ personal devices-- such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops-- often are “more capable than the equipment that they have been issued by their organizations.”
Much the same is happening on the BYOA front, thanks in large part to the “app culture” that has developed in the wake of widespread consumer adoption of smartphones. This trend actually predates BYOD, tracing its roots back to the 1980s, when people working in finance began bringing their own spreadsheet programs into the workplace to make it easier to crunch numbers.
BYOD offers several important advantages to SMBs, says Sampath Gomatam, vice president and general manager, real-time collaboration at Citrix, a cloud company that enables mobile work styles. Chief among them are:
- Consumer devices are often so sophisticated and powerful that they give employees the ability to perform far more effectively in their roles, which provides the advantage of business continuity.
- Employers have greater opportunities and flexibility to build their “dream teams” of employees. “You can find the right person for the job, and they can be plugged in with the team through their own devices using low-cost apps for videoconferencing, file-sharing, and real-time communication.” Gomatam says.
- Businesses save money by not having to equip and maintain an increasingly mobile workforce with the expensive devices they need to do their jobs, and IT resources are freed up to focus on more strategic initiatives.
- BYOD can improve productivity. Almost one in five SMBs are achieving productivity gains of more than 30 percent by adopting mobile work styles, according to research sponsored by Citrix.
BYOA also provides significant benefits to businesses, including lower capital expenditures for software purchases and licensing and reduced training requirements, since employees choose the apps with which they are most comfortable and proficient.
Of course, there are challenges and stumbling blocks associated with the bring-your-own trends. Two big ones are data security and regulatory compliance. “SMBs often must absorb more risk than larger enterprises out of necessity,” says Justin M. Strong, senior product marketing manager at Novell, Inc., a provider of infrastructure software. “They can’t afford a security team, a chief information security officer, and all that this entails.”
Lost or stolen devices, employee misuse, and the potential for viruses and other malware to infect corporate servers and assets are other valid concerns for SMBs considering BYOD/BYOA programs, says Creighton Grose, vice president of sales and marketing at Solstice Mobile, a mobile technology consulting firm. There is no “get out of jail free” card for SMBs, he stresses. “They need to approach device and data management in a manner that secures corporate data but doesn’t hinder productivity.”
Best practices for BYOD/BYOA include:
- Embrace the cloud. BYOD/BYOA is a great opportunity for organizations to take a closer look at their existing, and likely dated, IT architecture, says Sanchit Vir Gogia, chief analyst and group CEO at Greyhound Research.
- Value lies in data, not devices. “Focus on managing the app and data; device security alone will not help secure the corporate data,” Gogia says.
- Develop a mobile strategy that includes recommendations from IT, sales, human resources, and legal, suggests Jonathan Dale, director of marketing at Maas360 by Fiberlink, a provider of mobile device management solutions.
- Gain visibility into what devices and technologies are coming into your company via email and network access.
- Implement an enterprise marketing management (EMM) solution, which will help program adoption. “It also will help enforce necessary security access across your entire program,” Dale says.