Tech­nol­ogy ain’t Rocket Sci­ence!

The next wave of ‘the con­sumer­iza­tion of IT’, BYOD, is set to hit enterprise­s, but there are chal­lenges...

Voice&Data - - BYOD - Su­nil Lal­vani

The big IT party in the work­place to­day is of the BYOD (bring your own de­vice) va­ri­ety. It’s a party that has tech savvy em­ploy­ees in­vest­ing in consumer tech­nolo­gies and ap­pli­ca­tions to get work done in their work­place (or their course cur­ricu­lum com­pleted in col­lege). The BYOD trend is sweep­ing the work­place as smart­phones and tablets are help­ing in so­cial net­work­ing and in­stant mes­sag­ing, power col­lab­o­ra­tion, im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity, and foster in­no­va­tion. Ac­cord­ing to a For­rester re­port called How Con­sumer­iza­tion Drives In­no­va­tion re­leased in June 2011, 35% of in­for­ma­tion work­ers sur­veyed in North Amer­ica and Europe used per­sonal tech­nol­ogy at work. As the BYOD trend spreads, it raises 2 is­sues—is busi­ness pre­pared for it as lines be­tween IT for work and IT for per­sonal use blur? And are mak­ers of de­vices and ap­pli­ca­tions play­ing harder to make a di­rect con­nect be­tween con­sumers and their of­fer­ings?

A re­cent study by IDC and Unisys on the con­sumer­iza­tion of IT in­di­cated the ex­tent to which busi­ness needs to be con­cerned about these ques­tions. The study done across 10 coun­tries in­clud­ing C-level ex­ec­u­tives, vice pres­i­dents, di­rec­tor-level IT per­son­nel, and busi­ness-unit level ex­ec­u­tives showed that the busi­ness us­age of ap­pli­ca­tions such as blogs, wikis, BBM, Face­book, Linkedin, and videos is ex­pected to grow by 10-30% by next year. The study fore­casts that the num­ber of smart­phones used at work will dou­ble by 2014.

It is ap­par­ent that the com­mand and con­trol sys­tem used to im­ple­ment and drive IT in the past is due for a ma­jor over­haul. But there are signs of re­sis­tance. The IDC study says that de­spite the will­ing­ness of em­ploy­ees to bring their own de­vices to work, only about 30% of the busi­nesses sur­veyed said they were likely to im­ple­ment a dig­i­tal al­lowance to fund the pur­chase. On the other hand, it may be safe to as­sume that tech savvy work­ers will want to work for tech savvy com­pa­nies. The out­come of these find­ings will drive de­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers and ap­pli­ca­tion de­vel­op­ers over the next 2 years to build a bet­ter con­nect with their con­sumers, forc­ing wider change in the work­place.

De­vice man­u­fac­tur­ers that man­age to cozy up to con­sumers with bet­ter pric­ing, ease of use or in­tu­itive user in­ter­faces, con­ve­nient self-ser­vice for sup­port, en­hanced war­ranty man­age­ment, and su­pe­rior brand per­cep­tion will lead the mar­ket. In turn, this will have a large im­pact on the de­vices and tech­nolo­gies that enterprise­s opt for in the fu­ture.

While BYOD re­de­fines IT for the en­ter­prise, it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the BYOD trend is an ab­strac­tion layer that pri­or­i­tizes ap­pli­ca­tions over hard­ware. CIOS will there­fore be fo­cused on is­sues re­lated to li­cens­ing, in­ter­op­er­abil­ity, se­cu­rity, sup­port, and pol­icy man­age­ment.

The Groupme mes­sag­ing ser­vice for the Black­berry makes a rea­son­ably sim­ple illustrati­on for consumer needs and en­ter­prise con­cerns con­verg­ing in a so­lu­tion. Groupme has a sim­ple user in­ter­face that helps cre­ate groups to which mes­sages and pic­tures can be sent. Each group has a unique phone num­ber. Mes­sages sent to this num­ber are dis­trib­uted to the en­tire group. Sounds fa­mil­iar? It should be be­cause email has used the dis­tri­bu­tion list con­cept for ages. But the sim­plic­ity and con­ve­nience of the app wins when you have to make a con­fer­ence call. Di­al­ing a sin­gle num­ber brings ev­ery­one in the group into the call. Groupme keeps your

cir­cle of friends man­age­able. In the work place, the ca­pa­bil­ity is trans­lated into ef­fi­cient com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion to achieve work­place goals.

Ever since Gart­ner termed the trend ‘the con­sumer­iza­tion of IT’ in 2005 and fore­casted that consumer IT will af­fect ev­ery en­ter­prise, we’ve wit­nessed tremen­dous change. Com­pa­nies like Cisco have led the ef­forts to make a di­rect con­nect with their con­sumers. Cisco, with rout­ing and switch­ing prod­ucts that were largely rel­e­gated to the back of the shelf, with only per­haps IT de­part­ments fawn­ing over them, to­day has IP phones and broad­band routers that sit proudly on desk­tops. The com­pany made a con­scious ef­fort to be­come more vis­i­ble and moved to ‘the hu­man net­work’ phi­los­o­phy in 2006 al­most trans­form­ing it­self into a consumer brand. Cisco is in­dica­tive of the need for a more ‘hu­man’ con­nect with IT which need not limit it­self to brand vis­i­bil­ity but in fact needs to seep into the way in­ter­faces are de­signed into prod­uct ac­ces­si­bil­ity, cost and sup­port to de­velop a strong con­nect with the consumer.

The con­sumer­iza­tion of IT is a pow­er­ful and pro­found force that is sweep­ing enterprise­s. Of­ten, it con­founds the en­ter­prise as well be­cause of the chal­lenges faced in the fol­low­ing 4 ar­eas—

Li­cens­ing: Con­sumers are prone to us­ing what is con­ve­nient and of­ten do not pay ad­e­quate at­ten­tion to li­cens­ing is­sues. IT de­part­ments, to min­i­mize risk, re­strict the us­age of de­vices (to com­pany owned), and ap­pli­ca­tions de­ployed within the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ad­mit­tedly, it is a dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing act for both—em­ployer and em­ployee—as each has the same goal of im­proved pro­duc­tiv­ity, but are con­founded by their own lim­i­ta­tions.

In­ter­op­er­abil­ity: The com­plex­ity of IT en­vi­ron­ments within an en­ter­prise is in­creas­ing. Man­ag­ing com­plex­ity is a ma­jor cost that enterprise­s strive to avoid—which is why stan­dard­iza­tion is such an at­trac­tive propo­si­tion. The costs in­volved with in­te­grat­ing and test­ing de­vices and ap­pli­ca­tions that em­ploy­ees bring to the work­place can be a drain on re­sources and gaps in in­te­gra­tion can prove costly to busi­ness.

Se­cu­rity: Mo­bile de­vice growth will see a dis­trib­uted work­force pre­sent­ing new chal­lenges to se­cu­rity. Users are un­likely to wait for ap­provals from their IT de­part­ments to use de­vices and ap­pli­ca­tions they have be­come ac­cus­tomed to. Not only does this present a se­cu­rity threat to IT en­vi­ron­ments but enterprise­s will also need to change the way ap­proval of de­vices and apps is man­aged in or­der to re­spond more swiftly to em­ployee needs. The IDC re­port re­veals that 52% of those sur­veyed said they could store per­sonal data on com­pany re­sources; on the other hand only 37% em­ploy­ers said this was the case. The gap be­tween per­cep­tion and re­al­ity ap­pears to be al­ready sig­nif­i­cant. With­out ad­e­quate strate­gic in­ter­ven­tion, the gap could grow wider. But the point is not the gap: the point is the op­por­tu­nity be­ing lost in de­liv­er­ing higher pro­duc­tiv­ity across the en­ter­prise.

Sup­port: It is al­most im­pos­si­ble for an en­ter­prise to of­fer sup­port to ev­ery de­vice that an em­ployee wants to bring into the work­place; or to of­fer the same level of sup­port to a smaller and se­lect set of de­vices/apps. Over the next few months, this as­pect of the con­sumer­iza­tion of IT is likely to take up valu­able CIO time and at­ten­tion. Which de­vices should be sup­ported? How will sup­port costs be shared be­tween the en­ter­prise and the em­ployee? Given the rate at which prod­uct cy­cles are shrink­ing, how will an en­ter­prise man­age to keep pace as newer de­vices keep com­ing into the work­place? Af­ter all, the flex­i­bil­ity of­fered by the BYOD trend is what keeps the trend fu­eled and makes higher pro­duc­tiv­ity pos­si­ble.

Poli­cies: The pro­lif­er­a­tion of per­sonal de­vices is likely to prove a night­mare for pol­icy man­agers. Ac­cord­ing to the IDC re­port, 69% of re­spon­dents said they could ac­cess non-work-re­lated web­sites, while only 44% of their em­ploy­ers re­port this to be the case. Will this gap grow, set­ting off se­cu­rity con­cerns? How will pass­word and lo­gin poli­cies be man­aged? Will en­cryp­tion of com­pany data on per­sonal de­vices be­come manda­tory? Will sync pars­ing be en­forced to con­trol types of data be­ing synched be­tween en­ter­prise as­sets and per­sonal de­vices? Pol­icy en­gines will need a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion and new frame­works put in place. These frame­works will need to ad­dress de­vice re­quire­ments as also fac­tor in the mind­set of the younger gen­er­a­tion us­ing these de­vices in the work­place, en­sur­ing flex­i­bil­ity with­out com­pro­mis­ing se­cu­rity.

It is a tough bal­anc­ing act for IT to per­form. The de­vices and apps that will find fa­vor will be those that cre­ate work-life bal­ance keep­ing in mind the needs of the consumer as well as the en­ter­prise.

How­ever, not all so­lu­tions are rocket sci­ence. Black­berry Bal­ance is a tech­nol­ogy il­lus­tra­tive of how the needs of em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ers are rec­og­nized and man­aged. Black­berry Bal­ance, re­leased ear­lier this year, al­lows users to deal with work and per­sonal ac­tiv­i­ties with­out com­pro­mis­ing safety and se­cu­rity. It al­lows IT man­agers to dis­able func­tions and ca­pa­bil­i­ties such as copy­ing cor­po­rate data to a per­sonal e-mail ac­count or pre­vent the data from be­ing used on per­sonal apps. When em­ploy­ees leave, com­pany data can be re­motely deleted from the per­sonal de­vice, with­out af­fect­ing any of the de­vices func­tion­al­i­ties.

As de­vices make it eas­ier for con­sumers to man­age li­cens­ing, in­ter­op­er­abil­ity, se­cu­rity, and pol­icy they will find in­creased ac­cep­tance within the work­place. It is ap­par­ent that while enterprise­s seek to get closer to so­lu­tions in man­ag­ing mo­bile end-point needs, man­u­fac­tur­ers and de­vel­op­ers must seek to get closer to the mo­bile consumer.

The author is di­rec­tor, en­ter­prise sales, In­dia, Re­search In Mo­tion (RIM)


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