May 112012

Two years ago I realised that the management trend of staff bringing their own computers to work – BYOD – was more than a fad when I noticed executives were bringing the then new iPads to meetings.

Most of these executives worked in organisations where IT departments had waged war on employees connecting their own equipment to the corporate network, so this was a serious development in the computing world.

In many ways employees had been bringing their own technology devices to work for years. It was, and still is, quite common to see public servants and those working for other bureaucratic organisations arriving at meetings with an underfeatured work supplied handset and their own smartphone.

IT managers hated this as they saw those private devices as a security risk and another headache for their overworked staff to deal with.

When the iPod was enthusiastically adopted by the executive suite, the game was over for those IT managers. Suddenly they had to deal with these devices and the issues involved.

At a seminar run by systems integrator Logicalis earlier this week looked at some of the issues around BYOD for companies. What was striking in their presentations were the need for HR and legal departments to be part of the process for adopting this philosophy.

The BYOD philosophy is a big jump for organisations as it means relaxing controls on employees and for many managers that is the biggest challenge.

Part of that challenge is controlling the organisation’s data on devices that could be going anywhere and doing anything.

While companies like Logicalis and Citrix address this with remote desktop applications that create a virtual Windows desktop on the employee’s device, networking giant Cisco offer their ISE devices to run “identity services” that set up rules controlling what staff can access and where they can access it from.

Cisco Australia’s Chief Technology Officer Kevin Bloch gave a good round earlier this week up of where they see BYOD driving business. To Cisco, the move to mobile devices is irresistible as shown in their Global Mobile Data Traffic Update.

Interesting both Kevin and the Logicalis speakers see BYOD as being part of the recruitment process. Increasingly younger workers expect they will be able to use their own devices rather than relying upon employer issued workstations and mobile phones.

According to Kevin, Cisco’s research is finding many employees would trade salary for the right to bring their own device which is something that should grab the attention of budget constrained managers.

This also ties into other employer trends such as Activity Based Workplaces where companies provide hot desks and staff are expected to store their items away at the end of each workday.

Ross Miller of the GPT Group described how this is another trend driving the paperless office as staff using hot desks find packing away files and paperwork each day is an unnecessary hassle.

What we’re seeing with businesses adopting BYOD policies is a big change in the way places operate and this has consequences for all divisions of an organisation from HR and legal through to marketing and corporate affairs. It’s a genuine game changer.

How the BYOD philosophy is changing business is good example of technology driving our habits and work practices in ways we don’t always anticipate.

One thing is for sure, the workplace of the future is far more autonomous and diverse than those we’ve been used to for the last hundred years, the businesses who don’t adapt are those being left behind.

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