It began with a trickle and now, for many organisations, it’s a flood. That rising tide of employee-owned smartphones, tablets and laptop computers threatens to drown already weighed-down IT leaders around the country, but all is not lost. In fact, with a little planning, the flow of BYO devices — while not diverted — can in fact be harnessed for the betterment of employer and employees.
For the last year or so, Dimension Data’s CIO, Ian Jansen, has been working hard at tackling BYOD within his own organisation. Through breaking down the BYOD problem into smaller, more manageable chunks, and through implementing specific IT projects to facilitate BYOD management, the company now has a stable platform from which to both manage BYOD but also reap the benefits of a more mobile workforce.
Jansen says DiData’s successful approach — the company has between 30 and 50 per cent uptake among staff and BYOD devices under management number in the hundreds — is based on tackling BYOD in three phases: Acceptance; Refine and Baseline; and, Accelerate and Benefits Realisation.
“Acceptance may sound very obvious, but it is accepting the fact that BYOD will be in our future and will be part and parcel of what we do and will change the way we work,” he explains.
The next phase, Refine and Baseline, is about a normalisation of infrastructure and policies in order to be able to support BYOD, Jansen says.
“What we have done is to baseline a whole bunch of capabilities within our organisation,” he explains. “That extends to everything from policy to establishing Citrix platforms to improving wireless capability to ‘single number reach’ — a whole world of stuff to facilitate both mobility and BYOD.
“The third part is ultimately about connecting all the data in the back end of your business to all of these devices which are in the front of the business — in a native mode — which will change the way you do business and operate. I like to use the example around information we can make available to our clients or markets which we would not have previously gone after as a result of mobility and BYOD.”
Discussing the Acceptance phase in more detail, Jansen says the most important step — aside from realising that executives will want to use their own gadgets whether IT likes it or not — is engagement with the business and soliciting feedback during BYOD policy formulation.
“After I had written the policy and published it not the business and invited feedback I was blown away by how passionate and how enthusiastic people were to comment or an opinion. It is something which touches everyone,” Jansen says.
“People were writing me two- or three-page discussions on various points like the registration of devices or on how our policy stated when we could wipe information from devices.”
Having gained valuable insights from the business Jansen set up a BYOD policy which, rather than focus on specific devices, focuses on three core elements: Security, operational, and support.
“What we did was define the minimum requirements for smartphones, tablets and computers. That removes the whole emotional argument around this device versus that device,” he says.
“Ultimately we don’t care what the device is so long as it meets the minimum requirements in each of those three areas — our security policy, our operational requirements and our support policy.”
Under the operational policy, Jansen says it’s worth considering issues such as how decisions about which network a given devices is allowed onto. “For example, if you walked in with your BYOD computer, can you connect to the corporate network, or only Wi-Fi, or do we establish a specific network with specific characteristics?” Jansen says.
Device enrolment is another consideration, Jansen says: If an employee brings a phone or tablet to work are they allowed to immediately start using it or should it go through an enrolment process?
“We make people aware of certain things: That they need to view the policy; that they understand if they lose their device and we decide to wipe the corporate data on there; that they may lose their personal data such as their phone directory, personal email or photos,” he says.
“In having people enrol you can remind people of what they need to be mindful of.”
Licensing, too, is also a consideration given that BYOD devices are inevitably Wi-Fi-connected and new apps are but a few brief taps away. Jansen says there are plenty of questions to ask in this area: “Can someone purchase a licence and can they claim that back from the company? If people load applications onto a device, who is responsible for them? What corporate licensing are we making available to them and are we doing it in a particular way, such as through Citrix? The question is what licensing burden the corporation is taking on versus the individual.”
It’s also worth considering what happens when an employee or executive turns up with a device that isn’t supported and whether they will be allowed to participate. Consider too the cultural aspects, or how the relationship between a device and its owner changes when the device is used for work.
“We also started to think about the fact that once someone begins replicating corporate information onto a device the company starts to have an interest in that device and how it is used – even if it belongs to the employee,” Jansen says. “Because some of the data belongs to us we start to have an interest in whether the device has encryption, for example.”
Over the page: Security and support policy considerations, and IT projects to support BYOD.