BYOD still not convincing enough

Mobile services revenues from mobile business users worldwide will grow to $340 billion (€261 billion) by 2017, according to an update to ABI Research's "Enterprise Mobility" market data. The data includes voice, messaging, handset data plans, mobile broadband and enterprise apps, and management services revenues.
"The underlying driver of this growth is simply BYOD (bring your own device) and specifically the adoption of smartphones," said Dan Shey, enterprise practice director at ABI Research.
Shey said that without a strategy to serve the employee audience with apps and services that address their business and personal needs, suppliers will miss out on this important segment that represents 30% of revenues in the mobile services market - and which is expected to grow twice as fast as the consumer segment.
Gartner describes the rise of BYOD programs as the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace. Thus, every business needs a clearly articulated position on BYOD, even if it chooses not to allow for it.
For most organizations, the program is currently limited to smartphones and tablets, but the strategy may also be used for PCs and may include subsidies for equipment or service fees.
Gartner VP David Willis suggests that an organization may better keep up with mobile technology advancements by aligning to the consumer, rather than the much slower pace of business technology adoption, with its long cycle of detailed requirements analysis, established refresh rates and centralized procurement heritage.
However, while BYOD programs can reduce costs, they typically do not. As businesses look to drive ever more capability to the mobile device, the costs of software, infrastructure, personnel support and related services will increase over time. Once companies start including file sharing, business applications and collaboration tools, the costs to provide mobile services go up dramatically.
Gartner believes that IT's best strategy to deal with the rise of BYOD is to address it with a combination of policy, software, infrastructure controls and education in the near term, and with application management and appropriate cloud services in the longer term. Policies must be built in conjunction with legal and HR departments for the tax, labor, corporate liability and employee privacy implications.
"BYOD is not for every company, or every employee. There will be wide variances in BYOD adoption across the world - by geography, industry and corporate culture," said Willis.
Despite the inherent challenges, Gartner believes that we are likely to see highly successful BYOD programs in the coming years. Many businesses will expand beyond smartphones and tablets and embrace BYOD for PCs. Beyond PCs, it is likely that users will discover new uses for emerging devices not initially understood by IT planners, much like as with the iPad.
"It won't stop with bring your own PC," said Willis. "Bring your own IT is on the horizon. Once these new devices are in the mix, employees will be bringing their own applications, collaboration systems and even social networks into businesses."
Still, UK Insight finds that opinion on implementing BYOD appears to be still divided, with many at the top suggesting that this creates more problems than it solves. Yet, a recent survey of 232 IT managers based in the UK shows that many believe executives will still continue to BYOD and be allowed to do so.
Surprisingly, 79% revealed that they were not in the process of implementing a BYOD strategy or that BYOD has yet to affect their planning. For the 21% that had, four in five said they had seen visible improvements in staff morale as a result.
Also, more than 71% of those polled believed that BYOD would have no negative effects upon productivity. UK Insight said this suggests something else is holding them back.
While one in five of those surveyed said that they didn't envisage BYOD having an impact on company networks, almost half (48%) thought it would come at a cost.
Fear of hidden costs
Results suggest that rather than helping to reduce the IT spend (only 18% said they thought it would), many believed (28%) that that the hidden costs associated with such strategies would make it unattractive to those at the top as they struggled with managing different operating systems and licensing issues.
Indeed, 59% said they could even envisage a scenario where some firms might revert to a desktop computing strategy because of fears and costs associated with BYOD and the change it brings.
One respondent believed that costs would only rise as, once BYOD is in place, it would swiftly push IT to purchase these devices and provide them to staff, which brings a whole raft of new issues such as justification, who received them and how they are supported.
Even then, two-thirds of respondents believe that executives are still likely to embrace BYOD because of a tendency to allow this at upper levels to "keep them quiet".
"I've seen managers accused of creating problems for themselves, by appeasing end-users through BYOD," another respondent said. "But having crossed this line, where will end-user demands stop?"
A big potential benefit in seen in the case of mobile staff, especially those overseas who need devices for which they can obtain local support and in their own language. For example, supplying machines with Chinese operating systems is difficult.
For others, this could be simply an issue of image. In marketing sectors, where image is important, BYOD allows users to carry a device that matches their image and persona. They can update and change according to fashions and trends without limitations enforced by information systems.
But all these issues are relatively superficial because, as still another respondent said, BYOD is something that needs to be planned well with security and device management at its heart.
Side bar: Out of sight, out of mind
With nearly 70% of all smartphone-owning professionals now using their personal device to access corporate data, firms face risks of data loss as 80% of bring your own device (BYOD) activities remain inadequately managed by IT departments, according to Ovum.
In a survey of over 4,000 full-time employees, Ovum found that nearly half of their IT departments either did not know of BYOD or were ignoring its existence while a further 8.1% actively discouraged it.
"BYOD is here to stay and it's worrying to see evidence of such a high proportion of businesses burying their head in the sand when it comes to planning adequately for it," says Richard Absalom, senior analyst at Ovum.
It does not help that both end-users and the devices themselves are the bane of BYOD.
In a separate poll, Fortinet found that half of Hong Kong workers aged 21-31 - the first generation to BYOD - believe potential data loss and exposure to malicious IT threats to be the dominant risk with BYOD. Yet, close to half of them (47%) admitted they have or would contravene a corporate policy banning the use of personally-owned devices for work purposes.
Also, the majority (55%) of Fortinet respondents consider themselves - not the company - to be responsible for the security of the personal devices they use for work purposes.
"Within such an environment, organizations must regain control of their IT infrastructure," said Cherry Fung, country manager at Fortinet Hong Kong and Macau. "The most effective network security strategy requires granular control over users and applications, not just devices."
As for devices, Context Information Security has identified security failings in three of the most popular tablets. The Samsung Galaxy Tab was found to have serious weaknesses that make it difficult to recommend for use in the enterprise.
And while the iPad and BlackBerry PlayBook performed better, both still have security problems, including desktop software that does not encrypt backups by default. The BlackBerry was the only device found to have a workable solution to BYOD and provide good separation between personal and work data.