Posted on Jan 09, 2012 | Tags: | Comments (0)
Over the Christmas period, while on holiday and spending large amounts of time with my extended family (the majority of whom can happily be described as 'technologically challenged'), I was struck by the sheer volume of smartphones and tablets that proliferated the house. I'm used to being surrounded by such devices at work, after all I'm lucky enough to have technophiles and gadget junkies for colleagues - people who avidly follow and embrace new technology throughout all aspects of their lives. What I wasn't prepared for was finding the same devices being casually bandied about by everyone from my sisters and brother-in-law, through my aunts, uncles, cousins and parents, with such casual aplomb that you'd think they'd been using them their whole lives.
This realisation reflects a trend that I think has been has been simmering under the surface of many organisations for a while now and will likely be on the radar of many CIO’s and IT Managers during 2012. “Consumerisation of IT” or “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)”. While many organisations are already embracing this change to their benefit, most are not, and this became abundantly clear on Boxing Day, when discussing the digitisation of 35mm negatives with my uncle.
From memory, it went something like this….
"Can you email me a link to that page?" queried my uncle, peering at the device I'd been describing and showing him in the web browser on my iPad.
"No problem, what email address do you want it sent to?" He dutifully gave me his work address, which is also his only email address, and I sent the link winging its way through the ether. "Let me know it arrived ok" I advised, just in case I'd misspelled the address.
However, his response was somewhat more baffling - "Ok, I'll just need to go to the computer and check." Why was it baffling? Because I knew he had a brand spanking new iPhone 4S in his breast pocket. Upon further probing, he revealed that his company's policy was to only allow remote email access via webmail or company issued phones.
Similar answers were returned from other members of the family, other than my retired father, who somewhat smugly pointed out that he didn't have to worry about such things anymore. All could get company issued phones if deemed necessary for them, none could use their own phones or tablets to access email except through a web browser. The fact they could even do that turned out to be something of a revelation to most. It turned out that my younger sister and mother even have separate work phones, identical to their own phones. Email allowed on one, but not the other.
At brightsolid we have long allowed staff access to certain applications, including email, over secure connections using employees' own devices. In an age where the costs involved in supplying every employee with the latest technology is often prohibitive due to the speed technology advances, I think it’s almost certainly an opportunity missed when employees are buying these devices for their own personal use anyway. It seems the most logical thing to enable those users to get the most out of their devices to benefit both employee and employer.
Defining the security policies that go along with that is a challenge that many will be facing now or in the coming months, and while it will be a challenge for many due to stringent regulations, it shouldn't be seen as a show stopper. With the majority of smart devices supporting device level encryption, enforceable complex passwords and most common VPN types, along with remote management from Exchange or BES, most companies should be able to find a formula that works for them. The biggest challenge CIO’s and IT Managers will face if they don’t find a way to work in this new era, is around securing usage of the many freely available personal cloud products that many tech savvy people will use to augment their current working practices.
The last question I posed my various family members over Christmas was thusly:
"If your company paid for your phone bill, you could have your work emails on your own phone and tablet, and you wouldn't have to carry around two phones any more, would you be happy having to use an unlock code?"
After some consideration, the answer was a unanimous yes, aside from my father, who just smiled and sipped his whisky.
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Head of Emerging Technologies