Business of IT: Building a case for BYOD

The consumerisation of IT is upon us and business and technology decision makers must now decide whether they are for or against BYOD. Stephen Pritchard considers the options.

The "bring your own device" trend is not just hype. Although analysts and researchers covering IT have been predicting a rise in the use of consumer devices at work for a while now, there is hard evidence that, in enterprises, using a personal smartphone, tablet or PC is increasingly common, and for some sectors, the norm.

Research by Accenture, the management consultants, surveyed 4000 employees in 16 countries. They found that 23 per cent regularly used a personal device at work, rising to 42 per cent of executives.

You have to have guidelines, and you have to educate employees so they do not inadvertently put the company at risk.

And companies expect the number of employees using their own devices to grow steadily over the next few years, as companies look to control IT costs, but also to be more flexible.

In some companies, allowing employees to bring their own technology to work is seen as an important benefit.

At Colt, a telecoms and Internet service provider, allowing staff to bring their own computers to work was part of a wider project to encourage flexible working, as well as to upgrade IT capabilities. Employees across the business' 13 European sites can work from home two days a week, as well as choose to use a personal laptop instead of a company machine, and use a virtual desktop, for example for home working on a personal PC.

"We didn't call our scheme BYOD but 'choice'," explains Chris Hewertson, Colt's CIO. "We wanted to enable choice of the device but also over when and where people work, and take away some of the hurdles that IT often puts in the way."

Following a 200-user trial, Colt now allows anyone to join the personal device programme, and about 10 per cent of users have done so, handing back their company laptop in return for an allowance, of 1000 over three years, for supporting and maintaining their own computer (Colt does not pay for the cost of the computer itself).

In addition, 1,800 employees, out of 5,000, have now moved over to virtual desktops, using them on a range of devices, from home computers to tablets. One result has been that staff are handing back business laptops that Colt previously had to issue to anyone wanting to work from home.

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