It is not a new phenomenon for workers to use their own devices as part of their job, but company schemes to encourage people to use their own devices are a relatively recent development.
Smartphone sales have rocketed in recent years and workers now expect more than a BlackBerry as an option for mobile working. The iPhone is the epitome of the consumerisation of IT, with workers connecting to the corporate network with their phone and Apple’s iPad is now the device of choice for many a senior executive.
Businesses today want to turn this trend to their advantage. The ability for staff to use their own devices for work offers cost savings, improves mobility and keeps staff happy. To this end programmes have emerged to formalise the practice, known as bring your own device (BYOD) schemes.
The latest meeting of CIOs at the CW500 Club discussed BYOD best practice.
Steve Trigg, an independent BYOD consultant, told the audience about some of the common mistakes as well as the opportunities he had seen in corporate BYOD programmes.
He said the advantages of BYOD are many if done properly and go beyond the most talked-about advantages, such as flexible working and lower hardware costs. “BYOD is all things to all people,” he said.
“It is about employee productivity, improving collaboration, business process improvement, changing behaviour and flexible working.” Nor is it just about mobile phones, he said. “It is about tablets, laptops and remote dial-up for example.”
There are challenges in moving to a BYOD programme for businesses. Although most companies have staff using their own devices anyway, formalising a programme is complex with no real processes in place, according to Trigg.
Businesses need to change the culture when it comes to projects. He said many companies carry out a proof of concept for BYOD and it stays in the IT department and fails to get the message across to the business.
“What I have found with BYOD is that normal programmes are not followed and it is all about proof of concepts that sits with IT and it is often quite difficult to get it to the users.”
He said it is easy to set up a proof of concept in IT because you can get around quite a lot of the controls in place, such as security, but IT must communicate with people about what you are doing.
“You must be careful because, before you know it, you hit 2,000 users and are still in proof of concept.” He said the programmes need to move beyond this and gain business sponsors, develop communications plans and introduce user requirements.
It is critical to get the business involved early because each business will have its own set of user requirements, so there is no one size fits all.
“IT has to work closely with HR and legal because a BYOD roll-out touches everybody in the organisation.
But the advantages are great if BYOD is rolled out properly.
Mobile workforce equals less office space. “I was working with a company that halved the office space it needed,” said Trigg.
It can improve business processes and improve customer services. Trigg gave the example of mortgage processing with lenders visiting customers and filling forms electronically.
Then there is the fact that more of the workforce are on the street and there is reduced need to come back and forward. Trigg mentioned the police as an example of the advantages of freeing mobile workers from the office.
BYOD in higher education
Simon Furber, network manager Brunel University, spoke about how BYOD is nothing new for higher education organisations, as students had been accessing university systems on their own devices for years.
“BYOD is just nothing new for higher education and you are probably already doing a lot of it but just in an uncoordinated way," Furber told the audience of CIOs.
He described how universities had been providing students with access to systems via their own devices since students have had their own devices.
The numbers of devices accessing Brunel University's network is accelerating rapidly as mobile working becomes the norm, said Furber.
In 2009 we had 12,000 devices connected to the network but now we have 54,000 registered devices connected to the network with 20,000 users.
“We take being online for granted and take our devices everywhere.” He said in universities students expect to be connected all the time. He said businesses need to be ready for these individuals because they are the next generation of workers.
Furber said today it is more about giving individuals a unique online identity and it is more about an individual using devices – not a particular device.
Read more 500 Club articles
Because of the substantial demand Furber said the university must make it easy for users. This will increase user satisfaction and reduce the time needed for IT to support them. “We don’t want to make this difficult for users, we want to take all the complex stuff away.”
He said users will want some level of freedom to use what they want when they want. “We guide but don’t prescribe.”
“We try to say 'yes' more than we say 'no'. But we have to acknowledge some things we can’t do.”
Furber said in 2008 75% of devices were laptops but now 60% of them are mobile devices, with Apple iOS taking a 45% share. "Windows and BlackBerry are as expected on the network in smaller numbers as well as devices such as Play Stations and Nintendos," he said.
As Trigg had said earlier, Furber emphasised the importance of nailing down user requirements. “The biggest challenge is that people expect experts to come in and tell them what to do but that won’t happen. The key to this is what your expectation is."
He said the right way to do it also depends on your organisation.
BYOD case study
Garry Lengthorn, director of IT services at recruitment firm SThree, wrapped up the presentations with the story of SThree’s two-year BYOD story.
He said the company’s BYOD project is the first roll-out it has done globally. “And is the first one that got 100% in a satisfaction survey," he added.
Users funded almost 100% of the devices in the project, which is completely opt-in. “You don’t have to sign up to it,” he said.
He stressed the importance of getting everyone involved. “Salespeople saw the benefits but we had to make clear that HR and legal supported it.”
Lengthorn said the IT department supports the application from Good Technology but support for the devices is left to the user.
He said it was as important to inform people of their responsibilities as it was to tell them about why they were doing it. “Communication is key to the project. People had heard about it but communications around responsibilities was important,” he said.
“Marketing was not needed for the project because everyone wanted it, but we had to market the FAQs.”
Some 60% of 2,200 staff were using their own device, he said, which is not costing the IT department anything for the devices or support.
Lengthorn said the company automated the entire process of joining the BYOD scheme to make it easier and more cost-effective. From the day someone joins on the portal there is no manual processing.
“Six percent of the user base reprovision themselves every month – this would have a huge overhead if it was done manually. This jumps to 10 to 11% at Christmas,” said Lengthorn.
“We truly automated the BYOD process and that was the real success for me.”