2012-03-13

“Bring Your Own Device” Creates New Challenges for IT Service Professionals

It was not long ago that work and play were activities for two very different times and places. Work occurred in corner offices and cubicles, generally between the hours of 9:00 and 5:00. Everything beyond that was supposed to be play.

Now people work from home and exercise at work thanks to advances in IT service. Think about fitness centers over the noon hour. Executives line up on elliptical machines to work their glutes while smartphones exercise their thumbs. This is the life of the modern business person.

It is possible because professionals are always connected. They are no longer restricted to office desktops. An inbox can be checked just as easily by tablet during the commute or with a smartphone during the seventh inning stretch at a Boston Red Sox game. Flexibility is an available luxury, and people are buying their own devices to achieve it.

Avanade recently surveyed over 600 executives and IT service personnel at companies around the world regarding this consumerization of IT. The study found that 88 percent of companies allow employees to use personal hardware at work. Some IT service departments even adopted “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies.

Despite this liberalization of technology, there remain many challenges with BYOD. Here are four that keep IT service technicians up at night.

1. Who owns what? It might be the employee’s smartphone, but it is full of sensitive company data. Where are the ownership lines drawn? CIOs and IT service departments are learning that no one wants to be told what they can and cannot do with their device outside of the office.

2. Securing new devices is tough. Different devices and brands must be protected in different ways. Consumer websites and apps also expose them to more dangerous viruses and malware, especially once the device leaves the network.  

3. Theft is more prominent. Forget virus protection. What if a device is lost or stolen? A tablet left on the T in downtown Boston will be in Cambridge before the owner even knows that it is missing, and there is little that can be done at that point.

4. Expanded expertise. IT service professionals must be experts in all hardware and software used by the firm. That was easier when they were responsible for only one operating system. Now IT personnel must provide advice on Windows, Mac OS and Android all in the same day.

BYOD might create new network challenges, but consumerization benefits the organization in other ways. Charles Bess, an IT writer at HP, argued that CIOs should adopt BYOD for several reasons. It is cost effective, increases morale, improves productivity and lends itself to flexible schedules, including “Sent from elliptical machine” signatures.

For more about the challenges of BYOD, check out other posts about security on our blog.