Earlier this year Cisco released its IBSG Horizons Study, which surveyed 600 US IT and business leaders. The results of the survey provided a clear wakeup call for anyone in doubt about the reality of the bring-your-own device (BYOD) onslaught.
Ninety five per cent of participants indicated their organisations permitted employee-owned devices in the workplace, with some 84 per cent of the organisations surveyed providing support for employee-owned devices.
However, in many ways it is still early days for the BYOD revolution in Australia. That's not to say people aren't using their own devices in Australian workplaces.
“Even with the proliferation of more powerful smartphones in recent years, most Australian organisations (52 per cent) are still purchasing mobile handsets and services for people to use for work, with the remainder allowing BYOD,” Telsyte senior analyst Rodney Gedda says. “This has allowed more consumer-oriented devices like the iPhone and Android-based devices to garner a greater share of the business smartphone market.”
Telsyte research revealed that nearly 40 per cent of enterprises now cite the iPhone as their preferred brand of smartphone, with Android-based smartphones also becoming increasingly popular
But the existence of personal devices in the workplace shouldn't be conflated with Australian enterprises having developed BYOD strategies in place — in that respect, it's quite early days for Australian organisations in a lot of ways, says Hans Schiphof, director of advisory for UXC Consulting, which includes consulting on BYO schemes in its portfolio.
In Schiphof's experience, there's no set pattern to the verticals that are seeing the deployment of BYOD schemes by organisations. UXC has offered guidance to organisations in the pharmaceuticals, financial services and motor industries, as well government and utilities.
"I think organisations that employ Gen Y have no choice," he says. "'What do you mean no BYOD?' There's a definite expectation among the older generation — 'You'll give me a laptop right, that's part of my package?' — whereas the younger generation just whip out a smartphone and go 'What do you mean I can't use this?'"
It's not all smooth sailing with organisations implementing fully fledged BYOD, however.
A recurring issue with BYOD strategies is tagging it as an IT issue, when the implications are much broader.
"I think that people underestimate the importance of something that looks like just a tool — it's just a laptop, it's just an iPad, it's just another device — and they underestimate the relevance of the choice of BYOD," Schiphof says.
"It’s a very different choice for an organisation. It's ultimately a business choice around employee satisfaction and employee productivity… They see it as a technology solution, rather than as a business answer to a question."
Sometimes organisations will overlook the fact that the implications of BYOD stretch beyond IT to HR and legal, for example.
"Legal it's a major issue, HR is a major issue," Schiphof says.
"When can they actually use their device? And what can I do with the device? What can't I do with it in what timeframe? In working hours is it my device? There's the issue of data — 'Oh there's going to be data on your device, oh you'll be overseas with that…'"
BYOD "really forces the organisation to bring IT, finance, HR and sometimes legal together to get this right," says Denis O’Shea, CEO of mobile device management company Mobile Mentor. "And of course the user has to be represented in there as well."
Wiping the device if it's lost and who can actually use it are issues because the legal ownership of the device "becomes a bit strange," Schiphof says. "It's your device but you work for me… What's the boundary — where can I still touch the device, how far can I go to actually use it, that's probably the main HR issue in BYOD."
BYOD: What's the cost?
Another mistake Schiphof has seen is for organisations to assume that just because an individual is providing the device he or she will work on, there will be a cost saving from BYOD.
"'It's great: We don't supply a PC, you can use yours'. Then they realise they have to reimburse you for your costs. Then there are also some costs, such as the mobile apps that I support on your device."
There are also the costs of increased mobile data use and ensuring that an organisation's Wi-Fi setup is capable of supporting increased traffic.
The assumption that organisations can save money” with BYOD is inaccurate, IDC analyst Tim Dillon told the recent CIO Summit in Sydney. IDC research has revealed that most organisations see a 7-10 per cent increase in costs with the introduction of BYOD.
"There's actually very little cost savings in BYOD," Schiphof says, "although that's typically the driver". "CIOs will think, 'Oh great, cost savings'. In reality there's not much cost saving because of all the hidden costs.
"What happens is that when we ask people why they want [BYOD] they say they’re looking to make cost savings, then they dig deeper and realise that 'this isn’t why we should be doing it’. Because the real driver is two things: productivity and employee satisfaction. Employees work much better on their own devices, and they appreciate the choice to use the device they enjoy, rather than the standard tools. Those are the two main outcomes.”