October 30, 2013
How exactly does an employee’s convenience trump an organisation’s need for control? That’s the debate corporations are facing when it comes to managing the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ trend. BYOD allows employees to use their personal mobile products for business. In 2012, IBM decided a majority of their workforce could use their own phones and tablets for work purposes, but the company had high concerns about security, according to a report in the MIT Technology Review. They needed to quickly find solutions to the problem instead of fighting the inevitable. So given the inevitability of BYOD and the lack of control that accompanies it, what is the upside for businesses and how does an IT department ready itself for the BYOD challenge?
For most employees, the adoption of a BYOD program is a plus, but for IT workers — not so much. The problem is personal apps create a substantial security risk most employees don’t recognize. Not to mention, IT is responsible for finding a platform able to work with multiple operating systems, and somehow integrating it into their current infrastructure.
This may sound like a lot of work, but it is important to keep employees content. Even the White House is jumping on the BYOD bandwagon, claiming it increases employee productivity and job satisfaction. The choice of a favorite mobile device is a very personal one. One person loves iPhone’s simple interface while another hates anything Apple. BYOD bolsters the work environment by giving everyone choices.
The reality of BYOD is there will be a multitude of devices trying to gain access to one system. That means iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry all will be invading one space. The popularity of tablets makes the process even more complex. HTML5 is a major player in this game. Mashable suggests we have yet to see everything this language has to offer, but it and other common components provide a way to maximize enterprise mobility.
IT needs to accept that some devices will be tricky because of proprietary functions, as well. A successful platform will deal with both exclusive and common components. For instance, Blackberry’s MDM manages multiple systems on top of their OS, allowing it to integrate into a BYOD plan.
Before a business makes the switch, they need to establish some ground rules for employees to follow so they can regain some of the control they are giving up with BYOD. Employees need to know up front what their responsibilities are for maintenance and care of the device. For example, who pays for a replacement if an employee drops a personal tablet during working hours? Who has access to the device?
Creating a BYOD policy offers the staff a set of governing rules that includes the level of support they can expect from IT. Ownership of a mobile device doesn’t mean that person knows how to use it. It is critical for companies to set boundaries.
This is ultimately the biggest challenge facing an IT department. IBM added additional programs to encrypt information. They also used software to establish a persona for the employee, therefore, limiting the ways they could use the device. The goal is to create a border around the link between the device and the corporate system to secure data. OAuth is the open standard for authorization. It provides end-users third-party access to corporate resources without sharing credentials. This means no risk of someone else seeing or hacking user IDs or passwords.
Brandon Allen is a US based MBA graduate and freelance writer specialising in technological trends and business.