Get ready for a BYOD invasion

More companies are leaving employees to their own devices, a new study finds.

In a global survey of 700 IT professionals conducted for virtualization software company Citrix Systems Inc., 92 per cent say some of their staff are using their own tech devices at work and 94 per cent intend to have a formal BYOD (bring your own device) tech policy in place by mid-2013.

One hundred IT professionals in Canada, Germany, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Netherlands were polled by the U.K-based marketing firm Vanson Bourne for Citric.

 

The BYOD trend of not only using personal devices at work but integrating them into the enterprise network as well seems almost inevitable, as the proliferation of smartphones, laptops, netbooks and tablets blurs the line between personal and enterprise devices. It’s a phenomenon many technology trackers call the ‘consumerization’ of IT.

“(Managers) are saying ‘Let’s catch up to what’s already going on,’” says Tim Brunt, senior personal computing analyst at IDC Canada.

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A couple of years ago, consumerization of IT chiefly meant retail-type of brand products making their way into the workplace. “Now with more convergence not only of the device but their usage as well, it’s the true definition of where consumerization is heading,” Brunt says.

It’s a move embraced by many employees, who get a bigger say in choosing which devices and platforms they use for business inside and outside the office.

The top benefits of BYOD listed in the survey were:

  • Improved employee satisfaction (57 per cent)
  • Higher worker productivity (52 per cent)
  • Greater mobility for workers (51 per cent)
  • More flexible work environments for staff (46 per cent)

BYOD tech isn’t exactly a hard sell to managers either: 46 per cent of those surveyed cited lower IT costs as an upside of the trend.

The City of Guelph, Ont. has adopted a BYOD device policy for employees and contractors.

Last September storage hardware giant EMC Corp. embarked on one of the largest known BYOD trials, allowing 500 of its workers to use their own tech devices in an initial test run. EMC intends to expand the experiment to cover 5,000 staff members worldwide eventually.

Citrix, which commissioned the latest BYOD study, launched its own BYOD program in 2009 by giving each of its employees a $2,100 stipend to buy devices every three years.
 
However, there are worries that bringing your own device could also bring bigger security risks. According to a poll of 2,765 IT leaders from around the world, 58 per cent believe employee-owned mobile devices pose a greater threat to the enterprise than company supplied ones. The study was released in June by the U.S.-based Information Systems Audit and Control Association.

That worry isn’t lost on the IT pros in the Citrix survey; just over half cited security as a source of apprehension, making it the top concern in adopting a BYOD strategy.

And in May, Gartner analyst Laurence Orans estimated that about 80 per cent of companies adopting a BYOD policy will see their rate of IT security incidents double by 2013 as more consumer PCs make their way into the workplace.

BYOD looks like it could pit security conscious CIOs against cost-crunching CEOs and their choice-hungry employees.

It may also boost business in some parts of the IT chain — but dampen it in others.

The consumer popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPad is translating into greater enterprise adoption of Macs, which now account for one in every 10 corporate computers, Forrester Research Inc. reported in June.

Related story – 5 bargaining tactics for sourcing iPads and other tablets

“Empowered workers attracted to BYOD device programs are quickly coming to expect Mac and iOS support,” the Forrester report said.

The Citrix survey echoes that, with polled IT managers expecting iPhone to be the most popular smartphone in the workplace within two years, and the iPad forecast to be the preferred tablet for workers.

Regardless of the brand, BYOD tech adoption could lead to a bump up in consumer IT sales and a corresponding softness in enterprise sales overall, Brunt predicts.

“Certainly what you’ll see a reduction in is commercially branded products,” Brunt says. “You won’t have people buying a PC for home and another for work. So we’ll see a reduction in the number of units to the commercial segments. That is going to benefit the (consumer) retailers but also potentially it could be a burden for some of the larger channel partners.”

In an informal poll of about 100 manufacturers and channel partners during a recent IDC webcast specifically about the BYOD trend, 30.2 per cent said they believe PC sales will fall by 10 to 20 per cent in the next four years, Brunt says.

 

In March, Australian banking and insurance company Suncorp Group cited its BYOD device policy as a factor in deciding not to update its corporate desktop fleet of 20,000 PCs supplied by Dell Inc. and Lenovo Group.

The blurring of the line between business and personal IT devices also blurs the lines about who ultimately bears responsibility for BYOD technology: companies or employees? 

“Who’s responsible for getting things fixed and repaired? What happens to the privacy of the data on those devices? When an employee leaves an organization can the company wipe a (BYOD) device and give it back to the worker?” Brunt says.

Based on the Citrix survey, many firms expect employees to buy their own BYOD devices, but not to bear the cost of protecting them.

Just over half of companies polled said they will make workers pay for their own BYOD tech devices. Yet 66 per cent won’t require staff to purchase and manage anti-virus software for these devices.

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