Achieving BYOD confidence

The use of personal devices in the workplace has been by turns feared and welcomed. Over 10 years since the launch of the first iPhone, where do we stand now with BYOD?

Over the course of the past 10 years, the use and ownership of a smartphone used for work has moved from being the prerogative of senior management to an everyday occurrence. And while some organisations still provide these devices to workers, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has moved from being a novelty to a mainstay of IT planning across companies of all sizes.

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In a 2013 report, Deloitte said: “Adoption of BYOD has been enabled by recent advances in consumer electronics. Improvements in device technology have traditionally filtered down from enterprise to consumer devices in the same way as innovations in motor racing have trickled down to consumer vehicles. This trend has been in reverse for some years and many consumer devices now equal or surpass the capabilities of enterprise devices.”

Since then, this trend has continued to grow, particularly when it comes to smartphones. In a 2019 report, Mordor intelligence said the global BYOD market was worth $186.09 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $430.45 billion by 2025, driven by the more widespread availability of 4G and the growth in the number of SMBs founded over the next 5 years.

Using consumer technology at work may already be familiar across many businesses, but IT managers must pay close attention to how these devices are used, as they can quickly become compromised. The risk perimeter created by a BYOD environment can become vague and confusing to defend without clear user policies in place. As workers change their devices on average every two years, it’s critical to have a BYOD policy that is flexible.

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Two other acronyms have also joined BYOD: CYOD (Choose Your Own Device) and COPE (Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled). CYOD has become popular, as businesses can choose the devices their workers use and, stay in control of aspects of these technologies, notably their security. Bulk buying and streamlined procurement make CYOD increasingly popular yet can be restricting for users. COPE is often the choice of larger organisations. They retain ownership of the devices in use. COPE is familiar with highly sensitive or regulated sectors such as healthcare or finance.

Dr Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO of RSA Security tells IT Pro: “Although data can be a tremendous asset, it quickly turns into a liability given the seemingly endless barrage of large-scale data breaches. As the stakes increase, stemming from breach-related expenses, regulatory fines, and the potentially irreversible loss of customer trust, we may see a shift to a world where certain industries consider Bring Your Own Data policies that leverage user-owned decentralised storage, thereby reducing the liability in the event of a breach.”

The popularity of BYOD across firms of all sizes will continue to expand. As smartphones, in particular, continue to become more powerful, they can be used in more business environments. Managing these devices becomes a critical business strategy.

Consumerisation of IT

The consumerisation of the workplace has been evolving for the past five years. For businesses on a trajectory of digital transformation, the dexterity with which they can utilise mobile digital technologies now available is a differentiator. 

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BYOD has shown how workers covet their devices and will feel friction if forced to use other sanctioned technologies. The key is to balance how consumer technologies are implemented and then how they interface with the established IT infrastructure.

One of the most obvious ways this is happening is how devices are managed.

According to Leif-Olof Wallin, research vice president at Gartner: “Mobile Device Management (MDM) has evolved into Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and there is now a market termed Unified Endpoint Management (UEM).”

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“The focus has also shifted from managing the entire device to just focusing on managing the corporate applications and data,” he adds. “Many organisations deem this model adequate and provide the needed level of data leakage prevention.”

But could these concerns and adaptations all be for naught? 

“Some clients are reporting problems getting the BYOD adoption rate up as users may have a perception that the organisation gets too much control over the personal device or that the personal use of the device is being deteriorated,” Wallin tells IT Pro.

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Reticence among employees to hand over their devices to their devices isn’t the only stumbling block either, as some lauded business benefits have failed to materialise.

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“Many Gartner clients that initially embraced BYOD aggressively and made it the norm (typically for smartphones, tablets and, to a lesser extent, PCs) have reevaluated their programs for various reasons or have changed their policies significantly,” says Wallin.

“Expected cost savings from moving to BYOD often do not materialise. Conditions that made BYOD attractive initially may have changed, or the ability to enforce BYOD for all or most users has met resistance.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as some organisations will find conditions that made BYOD initially unattractive have changed.

“As platform management controls provide increasingly granular data controls, enrolling the device in UEM (Unified Endpoint Management) is no longer a requirement for BYOD,” Wallin explains. “This has resulted in clients increasingly embracing BYOD for some select user-profiles and CYOD for others.”

Making connections

The technology mix that enables businesses to remain agile and use the latest digital tools will have a BYOD component. Consumer devices, though, need to be brought into the IT environment of a company balancing user convenience and above all, security.

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Connecting personal devices to network infrastructure, and how these devices can be controlled, is clearly a focus for CTOs that see this trend expanding and accelerating before their eyes. 

BYOD and its close siblings CYOD and COPE are an evolution of digitisation that is on-going. Businesses need to appreciate how personalised devices are now an inevitable component of their processes. Workers have shown their desire to use their own devices and react badly when constraints are placed upon them.

Business IT is now consumer IT. Companies that embrace personal devices, place them within a secure environment, and leverage their power, will be able to innovate at speed

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