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Can BYOD bury the hatchet between IT and business?

CIOs must get bring-your-own-device (BYOD) technology right before it steamrolls their departments and puts corporate data at risk

All signs point to 2013 as a big year for BYOD, especially tablets and the enterprise apps that run on them. The pressure is on CIOs to get in front of this technology trend before it steamrolls IT departments and puts corporate data at risk. Part of this process will be to redefine the IT-business relationship.

Gartner predicts BYOD will become the top technology trend for 2013, with mobile devices surpassing PCs as the most common Web access tool. There is much at stake with BYOD, too, from a security perspective. Gartner says employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices through 2014.

CIOs have a lot of work to do to get ready for BYOD. Just ask Cisco, which has seen BYOD take off within the company. Cisco now supports some 60,000 BYOD smartphones, in addition to BYOD Apple iPads at its offices worldwide. In the last 18 months, Cisco has witnessed some 13,000 iPads enter its bring-your-own-device program.

There are currently 1434 BYO mobile devices being used by staff at Cisco's offices in Australia and New Zealand, in a program that has been in place since 2009. Device choice is purely employee-driven and includes Apple iPhones and iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, RIM BlackBerry, Nokia and Windows smartphones.

Cisco has been busy creating an enterprise app store, as well as tools for automating and provisioning apps, and a social tool to help employees around the world transition to a BYOD mandate.

Once iPads connect more easily to projectors, and the App Store gains better content-creation software, BYOD floodgates will burst open, according to Sheila Jordan, senior vice president of communication and collaboration IT at Cisco.

"It is on our roadmap to figure out the strategy of PCs and Macs over time," Jordan says. "As the progression of iPads become more enterprise friendly, we will be looking for them to replace a PC or Mac [for certain employees]. Right now, they don't, but I think they will."

Peter Hughes, director, collaboration Cisco Australia and New Zealand, said all smartphones and tablets used by staff at Cisco's ANZ offices are BYOD.

"To support this, voice and data plans are a combination of corporate paid plans, employee paid plans, and Wi-fi only supported devices. Cisco understands that workers will be more productive on a mobile device of their choice, while still operating within corporate security policies, with appropriate accountability," he said.

Effective BYOD strategies increase job-related productivity by as much as 30 minutes per day, based on Cisco's internal estimates.

But despite the obvious benefits, BYOD will surely test the already rocky relationship between business and IT. Surveys show that companies with no formal BYOD policy likely already have rogue employee-owned smartphones and tablets tapping into the corporate networks.

Even business units are going rogue and developing apps for BYOD behind IT's back. Mobile device management vendor MobileIron related the story of an IT department at a big healthcare provider that thought it had three mobile apps in its consumer-tech environment, only to find more than 60.

"Apps are popping up everywhere, and all or most have sensitive data," says Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at MobileIron.

Policies weaken the relationship

One area pitting business users against IT is the BYOD policy, which often infringes on employee privacy. Employees have to submit their devices to draconian rules that include remote wipe of a lost or stolen device, whereby they might lose personal data.

Making matters worse, many BYOD policies don't allow employees to turn on, say, iCloud for their iPhones and iPads. Public storage services such as iCloud and Dropbox ensure employees won't lose personal data in the case of a remote wipe, but CIOs fear a loss of control if sensitive data ends up there.

But iCloud can be a tipping point. Gartner believes people are gradually turning to the cloud instead of the PC to store personal content, essentially turning the personal cloud into the center of their digital lives. It's not something CIOs will want to deny them.

CIOs can curry favor by allowing iCloud on BYOD iPhones and iPads, says Cisco's US-based senior IT mobility manager Brett Belding.

For instance, a Cisco employee recently left his BYOD iPhone in a taxi cab, recalls Belding. The IT department showed him that his personal data was safely stored in iCloud, and then remotely wiped the device so that any personal apps, such as a banking app, couldn't be accessed. IT also shipped a new iPhone to him overnight.

"We're seeing the move to the cloud, and the cloud becoming the master of the content," says Belding. "Remote wipe becomes a benefit, not a hindrance."

Cisco has developed an elaborate multi-step plan for BYOD worldwide, which covers everything from creating a BYOD policy to renegotiating with service providers to proactively communicating with employees about new consumer products.

Tags smartphoneiCloudhardware systemsIT OrganizationtabletsCIOIT Organization | Consumer ITiPadBYODGartner

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