More than a decade ago, owning a mobile phone with a coloured screen was a sure sign that ‘you had arrived’. The next high was the advent of 2G technology, which allowed us to send multimedia messages. Further advances in technology brought us RIM’s Blackberry, which took this to the next level. Executives had now reached the zenith of connectivity by accessing their corporate emails via their Blackberry – a revolution in its own.
Circa 1994, starting with IBM’s ‘Simon’, technically the world’s first Smartphone, the journey has shown a tremendous advance in mobile technology. We have been through the Palm, the Nokia 9000, Kyocera, NTT Docomo and finally the iPhone and other Android Smartphones. You now have the ‘tablet’, which is cheaper than some mobile phones.
Today every ‘Smart Device’, under which I would include the likes of Smartphones, Tablets, Notebooks, and Phablets (and whatever else is in the making), are assured of having business applications like address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world time clock and notepad, along with email clients. As these devices become more sophisticated, their use as the final destination for ‘all things mobile’ has become ubiquitous. An interesting aspect is that enterprise mobility is being pushed from the consumer (in this case, the employee) to the enterprise, rather than the other way around.
The concept of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) is here to stay. To BYOD or not to BYOD is not the question anymore. In fact, it has become BYOD versus CYOD (Choose Your Own Device).
What started as a fun, exploratory and downright risky act of using your personal device for your office work, has now become regular, streamlined and structured. Enterprises are beginning to realize that they cannot avoid corporate data from getting into personal devices, and rather than forcing employees into stealth-mode BYOD, it is more pragmatic to encourage it at an official level.
CYOD provides a balance wherein it lets the employee choose a particular device from a range of IT-approved devices. It helps the organization to enforce at least a particular IT-approved level of security along with the advantage of having users assume some costs of buying the device. On the other hand, it gives the user technology familiarity, has a positive effect on employee morale, and gives a boost in productivity.
The advantages of allowing personal devices can be broadly listed as the following:
- Personal Productivity and Accessibility: Employees having 24×7 access to email and other Office business applications can help increase an organization’s global reach. It streamlines and speeds up business services like HR self-help or approvals.
- Business Content and Collaboration: The ever-increasing volume of communications can now be more proactively managed. It allows the sales force to use their mobile devices in the field to engage prospects and customers instantaneously, thus driving higher sales and an enhanced level of customer engagement. Complete enterprise standard email collaboration allows employees to be virtual.
Some of the primary concerns with reference to using hosted email and other business applications over personal devices include:
- Security: Data leaving the premises unaccounted, lost or stolen devices increasing corporate data risk. A study conducted by Osterman Research reveals some shocking facts (shocking for organizations). Fifteen percent of the employees surveyed admitted that they believed that they have ‘none to minimal’ responsibility when it comes to safeguarding the corporate data that is stored on their personal devices. Ten percent went a step further to say that they didn’t even have a basic password or a PIN enabled on their device. Now if this isn’t a potential risk for organizations encouraging the use of personal devices for official work, what is?
- Personal Use: Organizations worry that allowing personal devices at the workplace could result in employees wasting precious work time to indulge in personal activities like chatting, using social media or exploring other forms of tech entertainment.
- Working with Organization’s Technology: Some personal devices may not meet the requirements for being fully compatible with the organization’s policies.
According to a new mobile phone forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, more than 1.25 billion Smartphones will be shipped worldwide in 2014. That number signifies a 23.8% increase from the 1.01 billion units that were shipped in 2013. This is not including the global sales forecast of ~$240 million Tablets for 2014.
Enterprises have to accept and gear up for this change. The IT departments need to start formalizing policies covering acceptable BYOD usage, keeping in mind that it is still a relatively unexplored territory and the near future could bring many surprises.
The average office workers now expect the same consumerism that they have become accustomed to with their personal device, from their office device. Engaging the employee will be equally important as engaging the customer.
We can actually look at Hollywood to get a glimpse of how our not-too-distant future seems to be shaping up. With wearable devices just beginning to peek through the clutter, enterprise mobility is going to hit a whole new dimension. Advances in holographic technology, augmented reality (Google Glass), smartwatches, etc. will lead to the ultimate goal for an organization to allow any employee to be productive everywhere with their preferred tool.