The bring your own device (BYOD) trend is forecast to have a transformative effect on the flexibility and mobility of businesses and their workforces.
By allowing the use of a single mobile device for business and personal use, BYOD schemes hope to cut costs and increase productivity. HP's chief technologist, James Morrish, believes that the key benefit of BYOD is flexibility, which is core to its adoption.
"The key watchword now and going forward is flexibility. If you can architect an infrastructure that affords flexibility, it gives freedom of choice for businesses and users," Morrish told V3 at the 2014 IP Expo.
It is this level of choice and flexibility that makes BYOD an attractive element of IT.
Empowering a workforce
By merging enterprise and consumer capabilities on one device, commonly smartphones, workers can access corporate email when out of the office, enabling time-sensitive tasks and correspondence to be carried out quickly and more efficiently.
Meanwhile, staff can still respond to personal aspects of their lives without carrying a separate or restricted device.
But whether people are happy to use one device for their personal and professional lives, particularly as they are exposed to work correspondence when out of office hours, remains an issue.
Morrish believes that BYOD schemes can actually empower individuals in an organisation by allowing them ownership over their time and giving them the responsibility of determining their own working patterns.
"It's down to the balance. Gone are the days we work nine to five. We typically time slice. So we spend some of our time doing work and some our time doing personal stuff," he said.
"To be honest, from an individual's view I think the advantages outweigh the negatives."
Morrish conceded that some employees will doggedly oppose BYOD schemes despite the benefits they can bring.
"I don't know that you can say that everybody in a workplace would actually wholeheartedly go for BYOD," he said.
"There are lots of employees that say: 'Well, no, I don't want to use my own device. You give me a device, I'll use it. That's my work device. I have a personal device at home that is just that. I'd like to keep those worlds separate.
"I think that it is very difficult to say that one particular solution is going to fit everybody."
It is this lack of a one-size-fits-all approach that could stifle the wide-scale adoption of BYOD, despite the advantages, according to Morrish.
Security concerns and taxing issues
The most common barrier for BYOD is security. Morrish explained that organisations handling sensitive data, such as the military and financial services, need to take a very robust approach, while organisations with less pressing concerns can more readily integrate BYOD schemes.
This can cause fragmentation in the approach to BYOD, leading to diverse and uneven penetration through industries regardless of the best attempts by hardware and software vendors.
"Security demands really change along that continuum and, as a consequence, BYOD is easier to achieve for some businesses than others," said Morrish.
He went on to explain that, while the technology exists to ensure that BYOD is carried out securely, the variations in security needs can transform consumer devices into a strictly locked down corporate smartphone with few consumer features. The result can be an erosion of the benefits for workers.
As different companies need bespoke approaches to safely integrate BYOD, the variation throws up other obstacles in terms of tax legislation and device ownership.
For example, some companies might offer grants to employees to buy personal smartphones for better BYOD adoption, but this could be seen as a tax benefit and might raise problems with the Inland Revenue.
Morrish believes that the near future of BYOD appears to be made up of different approaches tailored to suit each company, rather than a unified and standardised approach.
"In all honesty there's no black and white solution to this," he concluded.
However, despite this lack of clarity in adopting BYOD, there are several examples of organisations that are reaping its benefits.
South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has successfully integrated a BYOD policy in a bid to increase productivity while keeping costs down. David Hayes, IT operations manager for the Trust, described how the release of the iPad 2 galvanised a successful BYOD adoption.
"Suddenly, we had a device small enough for clinical staff to carry around but powerful enough to support daily computing needs," Hayes said.
"IT is enabling a new way of working. We have senior executives who now do 95 percent of their work on an iPad. Giving people the right tools to complete work-related tasks from anywhere at any time is a game changer."
Other public sector organisations have also been getting in on the BYOD action. Camden Council in London leads the way in BYOD by some margin when compared with other local councils.
It is likely that BYOD adoption will grow over the coming years, as organisations seek to unlock the cost savings and efficiency gains that can be achieved by merging corporate and personal worlds onto one device.
However, standardisation and a uniform approach to BYOD are unlikely to be established any time soon, as engagement, administrative and security issues present hurdles that require diverse approaches.
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