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Enhancing Productivity with BYOD

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) promises benefits such as great innovation, better work/life balance, and improved productivity. With employees taking devices outside corporate premises, the consumerization of IT has created security issues in increasing issues on IT to manage and secure devices and data. Vodafone Group Enterprise’s Robert Daniels, the head of management and security, talks about this very issue.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Enterprise Management 360° and is reprinted by permission..]

EM360°: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) seems such an elementary term as more mobile devices come into the market, but when did organizations realize these powerful devices were more for just leisurely use?

Robert Daniels: I would actually say that the era of mobility first started with Blackberry, although it wasn’t really called a smartphone back then because it was really only used for e-mail.

It took the iPhone and the introduction of applications for people to truly understand the power a mobile device can have, not only for entertainment, but also to enable people to be a lot more productive outside the office. That notion was reinforced with the introduction of many other mobile devices out there, primarily Android.

These tools made mobile working a much more palatable proposition, where people started to work outside the office more. They realized that their productivity and the ability to satisfy customers increased because they could be much more responsive, so there was an interesting confluence of increased productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and increased employee satisfaction.

I think the third piece of the puzzle that drives the BYOD trend is infrastructure which has now caught up to accommodate these new devices and this new way of working. 3G is relatively ubiquitous, 4G is now coming online, and both are complimented by mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. These high-speed networks enable employees to be productive with the device of their choice anywhere they want.

Research found out in 2012 that a staggering 92 percent of companies reported some use of non-company issued devices being used on the network for communications purposes. I was wondering how this statistic has actually progressed in 2013 and how you see the next few years developing.

There are a number of devices out there that I like to use and enjoy for my own productivity that are not issued by the company I work for. Having said that, the introduction of cloud services certainly accelerates and reinforces this opportunity because it allows you to store information centrally and access it anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are on your PC, your laptop, your mobile device or television, you can still look at that same piece of information.

However, I do always feel like I need to add a word of caution here for IT managers because a lot of these cloud services are being brought into the workplace not because IT managers have introduced them, but because employees have discovered them and have started finding ways to use them for their own use. This is where IT managers need to make sure that they do have good policies and products in place to allow their employees to take advantage of cloud services so they don’t try to go off on their own and essentially do it themselves.

To what extent then can an organization actually control the use of personal devices in the workplace?

Organizations need to ensure they are aware of all of the devices that are being used within the corporate network. Organizations that are too rigid in terms of what employees can use their personal devices for are potentially more at risk because their employees will work around these measures. By making sure that there are the right tools in place and adding an element of control without overly restricting employees is the best approach and there are a number of tools that are out there to help achieve this.

For example, one tool we often talk about is mobile device management. This gives IT managers an element of control over the devices in their fleet. This can range from having an inventory of all mobile devices being used on the network to managing information and the security of devices through password protection, encrypted data, and access to certain applications.

These technologies can also be used to ensure that employees have access to the most relevant Web resources, in turn increasing productivity. Ultimately, it’s up to the IT manager in terms of how much control they really want to impose on their employees because the more control they try to impose, the more likely employees are going to try and get around the restrictions.

Finally, there is also a secure container approach, which allows an employer to control only the part of the device with the corporate data and corporate applications, essentially leaving the rest of the device alone where all the private data exists. This is an interesting balance because it essentially leaves the employee’s device as a personal device except for a very small section which the enterprise says, "This is a section which I want to control", and so there is less of a risk of an employer having access to personal information.

Is IT then having a great headache with the number of devices being brought into the business, and is encrypting certain devices actually dependent on how important the personnel are in the organization?

Certainly having such a variety of devices can cause a headache for IT managers. Each device has its own set of advantages and challenges in terms of using business applications.

It is essential to make sure that the challenges around securing mobile devices is not just an issue that IT managers have to deal with but also an issue that senior management needs to be aware of. It is important to educate the workforce to better understand that IT is there to enable them to be more productive. Ultimately, the support from employees and senior management is crucial.

What is the future potential of BYOD in terms of the engagement, retaining, and building a productive workforce?

BYOD will continue to whirlwind in importance, particularly for those recent graduates stepping into the workforce who live incredibly connected lives. They already have their favorite mobile device and they use that to communicate and network in a way that I couldn’t even imagine doing when I left university. This new generation of worker is not going to want to be solely restricted to the devices that an employer is willing to let them have. BYOD will increasingly become an essential recruiting tool if companies are to attract the best talent into their workforce.

Any final thoughts?

I’d like to close by mentioning that we are currently in a great era of change being brought on by new technologies such as 4G, and incredibly sophisticated smartphones which are essentially mobile computers that fit in your pocket. This is allows us to be more innovative, not only in terms of what we produce, but also in terms of how we work and relate to people.

Robert Daniels is the head of management and security at Vodafone Group Services. He has been working in the telecommunications industry for the past 12 years and has been with Vodafone Group Services since 2006. In his current role, he is responsible for developing and deploying a global product portfolio that enables Vodafone’s customers to manage and secure their devices as well as the data they hold. Robert’s portfolio includes Mobile Device Management, Mobile Security, User Authentication, Blackberry Secure Remote Access, and Security as a Service.

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