BYOD: Opportunity or threat?

Heads of IT and analysts came together at last month’s ACN 100 Forum to debate the hottest issues in the industry

Tags: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)IDC Middle East and AfricaITP Publishing GroupMobile Device Management (MDM)
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BYOD: Opportunity or threat? Participans agreed that BYOD is a reality, or soon will be, whether IT managers like it or not. (ITP Images)
By  David Ingham Published  July 24, 2012

Heads of IT and analysts came together at last month’s ACN 100 Forum to debate the hottest issues in the industry. The first panel of the day focused on BYOD and its implications for the it department.

It’s one of the major trends in enterprise IT, but bring your own device (BYOD) is causing CIOs some major headaches. Can they really maintain enterprise security while opening up applications and data for users to access at will? At last month’s ACN 100 Forum, Graham Cambridge, head of IT, Emirates Investment Authority; Ashi Sheth, director of IT, American University of Sharjah; and Olaf Acker, vice president, Booz & Co debated the issue in a session moderated by Haritha Ramachandran, program manager, ICT practice, IDC.

Haritha Ramachandran (HR): How are opportunities for improved mobility changing user expectations and raising the bar for IT services delivery?

Olaf Acker (OA): The bring your own device trend, mobility and social media are all coming together and it is a little bit overwhelming for some of our CIO clients. We recently surveyed 150 global decision makers in the IT space and a couple of hundred end users to understand where’s the friction between what the IT department want to push and what the end users want.

Originally, mobility was only a few users in sales and the senior management. When we talk mobility today, everybody has some kind of mobile device. It is no longer something we can confine to a user group; it’s a broader issue you have to deal with as a CIO. It covers more users, more devices and more usage cases. This is now a multi-dimensional challenge. On the one and, it’s a great opportunity; on the other, it’s adding cost and complexity. We should also not forget that the user may see something as a great opportunity, but when we ask the executive, they would say it just adds cost.

It’s very important to figure out what usage case makes sense, who are the users that would benefit, and if it makes sense from a business perspective to add complexity to an already complex IT landscape.

HR: Ashi Sheth, as a director of IT, what is your practical experience of BYOD?

Ashi Sheth (AS): From the academic sphere, where I’ve been for the last ten years, we’ve been facing this issue for that entire time. Our students came to our campus and they bring their Xbox, iPhone, Blackberry; I’m certain my students have devices before the general population does. The model in academia is contrary to what most corporate models are. In the corporate sector, when it comes to sharing information, you prevent everything and then you give what you’re supposed to give. Academics see it the absolute opposite way: Share everything and protect what you have to. That transforms into whether I can prevent a device operating in my environment. I can’t because at some point a facility member will say I need iPad HD and iPad 2 is not sufficient. It would be the worse case scenario for someone in IT to say that is unacceptable. We see this shift from a different perspective and we have got more accustomed to it because we have faced it for the last ten years, at least.

HR: From the government side, is this a good or bad move?

Graham Cambridge (GC): I think the most interesting point is the engagement we’re getting with users and the realisation of the benefits of technology. We’ve spent years trying to convince people that using this technology will bring benefits, but now you’re no longer convincing someone that this technology will benefit them. It will be foolish of us not to capitalise on this new-found interest in what technology can bring and we have to face up to it because the generation that’s coming through wants this.

Ultimately, however, as CIOs, we’ve got a responsibility to the business to manage risk and security and that’s the biggest challenge in making this happen. I think the technology’s there to enable us to have both.

It’s feasible for us to manage this risk effectively, we can tier things. In our case, we’re doing this with iPads and iPads for meetings. At the moment, we’re predominantly consuming information on the iPads, but it’s done securely; it took a while to get everybody in the senior team comfortable that the security was appropriate, but the benefits are clear and I think it offers so many opportunities.

HR: You said there’s risk versus benefit; what are the benefits?

GC: It’s not about cost. You will have to spend a bit more money to support another platform and deploy tools to make it secure. The opportunities are that people are finding new ways to work, they’re being more creative and we’re saving paper so we can head towards a paperless environment. Again though, if you don’t tackle the security angle correctly you are at risk and you have to be very clear with everyone how that works, who owns what, which apps are the user’s and which are the business’s.

AS: In my case, the data that I have to protect and have most control over is financial and academic (grades). Trying to make sure that data is not being shared or made public is really key. We do a significant amount of training with faculty, helping them to understand that if they want to work with this portable device while away from campus, these are the additional steps that you have to be aware of. It requires a lot of training with faculty and students to make them understand that they can be compromised. It’s a heavy training process in order to make sure everyone is aware of what the potential flaws are and what they can do to help protect themselves.

HR: What does the market say in terms of security; is it something they’re investing in?

OA: When it comes to security, that was the number one concern in our survey. On the other hand, you could argue that a cloud device, like an iPhone or iPad, could be superior to the old world where you would give every executive or salesman a notebook. If he’s in the firm for three to five years, on the hard drive you have three to five years of company data.

2530 days ago
Kavitha Rajasekhar

The enterprise view of customer experience has taken a new turn with consumerisation of IT lead by the mobile explosion. It’s time to watch the macro revolution as it sets out to blur the roles between an employee and consumer, driving new trends including BYOD.

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