Moderating a panel at today’s Mobile Enterprise Strategies Summit, I was lucky enough to have a few minutes beforehand to chat with the panelists casually.

With Ed Brill, director of mobile enterprise marketing for IBM; John Britton, director of the office of the CTO at Good Technology; Parminder Sohal, director of mobile innovation at HP; and Anthony Bartolo, technical evangelist at Microsoft surrounding me, I couldn’t help but ask them about their own habits with their mobile devices. At a conference where the subject matter was dedicated to employing smartphones and tablets to better use within businesses, I wondered how these power users from premiere tech brands took advantage of their own mobile tech.

It turns out their mobile device benefit goes well beyond mere productivity boost or convenience for these guys. All four of them were unanimous in their agreement that their roles – each fairly senior within their respective organizations – were actually made possible by their alacrity with the latest mobile solutions.

Sohal says he hasn’t been in an HP office in three years – a fact he seems proud of. Britton says his travel schedule is too hectic to make time to spend in the office. Each of them say that keeping connected while on the road or working from a home office is more than suitable for their own roles and becoming more commonplace within their organizations. And why reverse that trend when it was often those tech-savvy, mobile-enabled employees that will work tirelessly day and night?

But surely there must be times when these four tech-savvy guys turn off their smarphones and tune out work life? Nope. Brill said he couldn’t even imagine doing so, if it weren’t for having been in another country recently where getting connectivity just wasn’t an option.

I carried the premise of that uber-productivity that mobile devices can enable into the start of the panel. Sure some individuals will figure out how to take advantage of smartphones for the workplace on their own. But not everyone can be tech-savvy, and perhaps organizations lacking a cohesive BYOD policy could miss out on added productivity from their employees by not helping enable them.

In our own, soon to be released, State of the SMB 2013 survey we asked companies across Canada about their IT departments and how they run them. One the questions we asked was specifically about BYOD policies. Out of 363 respondents, 44 per cent said they had no formal BYOD policy; 18 per cent enabled personal technology on an ad-hoc basis; 16 per cent have implemented a BYOD policy that includes both access permissions and employee training; and 10 per cent have a policy with access permissions but no training.

I asked the panel – do organizations always need a BYOD policy or can an ad-hoc approach be OK in some situations? Sohal and Brill said it was OK in certain scenarios – perhaps a pushy executive won’t take no for an answer when they want a certain device to work. On the other hand, Bartolo and Britton were against an ad-hoc approach.

Bartolo pointed to the ability of most organizations to use already-implemented Microsoft Exchange to implement a BYOD policy – so there’s no excuse not to, he reasoned. Britton was concerned not having a company-wide policy would leave too many gaps and create a loose framework that would be hard for employees to understand.

One thing that all panelists did agree on was that the multi-platform environment brought to us by the BYOD trend is here to stay. Gone are the days of just supporting BlackBerrys. Although our own survey shows they are still the most popular device in Canadian businesses (61 per cent indicate they use them), BlackBerry is joined by iPhones (used by 54 per cent of businesses), Android devices (51.5 per cent) and Windows Phone (19.4 per cent).

As Britton put it, businesses now have to be on their toes and watching for the next mobile platform to emerge. You may want to figure out how to support it before your employees start walking in the door and trying to use it.

Watch ITBusiness.ca for more coverage from the Mobile Enterprise Strategy Summit.

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