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BYOD – where does the control actually lie?

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The consumerisation of Information Technology, characterised by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), is a market created by consumers purchasing their own devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops. As BYOD continues to replace the traditional enterprise setup of desktops and laptops, it is forcing enterprises to sit up and take notice!

Rudi Greyling, CTO and Innovation Director at Avanade South Africa. (Image: Avanade SA)

IT News Africa spoke to Rudi Greyling, CTO and Innovation Director at business technology solutions and managed services provider Avanade South Africa, about the influence of BYOD on the workplace, the significance of this trend in businesses and the issue of effective management.

Avanade SA has embarked on global research into BYOD via an independent firm. Why?

Everyone is talking about consumerisation of IT and BYOD, is there benefit? is there not? That is the reason why Avanade embarked on this research by an independent firm. We wanted to see what the opportunities are and also answer our clients when they ask ‘what is the value’? ‘should I or should I not’?  Using this global research, we can see how South Africa compares and see what local companies are doing and if they are on par, or behind. We surveyed about 599 respondents across 20 countries, including South Africa.

What were the key findings from the research?

Key findings from the research confirms that consumer devices are storming the workplace … they are here in any case. What are you doing about these consumer devices? Are you embracing them?  Either through BYOD, or embracing the trend by issuing devices. Because it can be either, or. Are you putting up resistance?  Enterprises like to control. They like to issue devices and regulate use. With that comes issuing costs, maintenance costs… so there are a select number of companies that desire to embrace the BYOD side of things. The employee can bring their own device, but the employer can also issue consumer-type devices so that they can gain control.

What is the best way to approach BYOD?

There is no real right answer, it depends on what risk you see and what benefits you want to get from the device in your environment for the organisation. Obviously if you do BYOD there is more risk and more controls are required in terms of what businesses processes you want to enable. If you issue the device, there are cost implications, but there is more control and therefore more business processes that can be exposed. It is really best to have some kind of policy – irrespective of which route you want to take.

How are local companies responding to this trend?

There are a lot of companies putting up resistance and saying ‘not at all’, they do not have the capacity for the change – there is no benefit for them. Then there are those that say ‘we want the benefit, but do not want the additional risk of personal, so we will issue’. There is then a select few that are fully embracing BYOD. Most are sitting in the middle batch – company issued. The benefits they get from this approach are the same as those derived within the third group – it all depends on the work process they allow on the device.

Where is the main take-up of BYOD, consumerisation?

We are seeing two main uses of this – it initially started with corporates and executives who wanted to have monthly reports or other information loaded onto their ipads for quick reference, including stats about the company or KPIs that had to be monitored. The other trend is the mobile worker that is out in the field, not deskbound, who are highly mobile and instead of capturing things on paper, they are capturing on a mobile device. They have mobile devices to roam and capture information immediately. Now, general office workers are using additional devices to check up on emails, schedules and information, and do quick spot checks and updates. This is the third emerging category.

Cost saving is not associated with BYOD – please explain?

You will also see in the research, it is not about cost saving… it is about additional benefit. The business case is not a cost saving one on device or equipment or management, etc. those are additional costs coming in… you have to write a business case and write off that cost up against the benefit you will get. The benefits can be anything from improved sales or more accurate data in realtime. The upside to that is that the business case is right.  Business leaders say ‘go’ and they want the upside, whereas the IT leaders do not see the upside that much and view it more as an additional cost, extra workload. It is wrong to think you are going to save costs … your IT spend will definitely go up, but your business benefits need to outweigh it.

Another misperception is that BYOD is about the device itself … do you agree?

Yes, if you are getting hung up on a device discussion, then you are not doing BYOD for the right reason. The device is just a tool to achieve the end result, you can have debates about the device required, but if you want to go device-specific and go broad, there will have to be three sets of rollout. This is not that great because you are maintaining three sets of applications. Or, you do it broadly and say well, I am doing HTML 5 version, which is device independent, I cannot use deep features of the specific device, but if I am entering into this space, I might not require the deep specific functional details of the device.  The size of the device does matter, it needs to match up the requirements. You need the right form factor for the job. If clients do have a niche requirement, then it is a question of choosing the right device.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor

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