Survey: U.S. falls behind on user-centered BYOD

CIOs must rethink the traditional, rigid approach to data access

U.S. corporations tend to be far less concerned with the brand of mobile devices in the workplace and more worried about which employees have access to company data, according to a Dell survey of 1,500 senior IT managers in 10 countries. The survey looked at bring-your-own-device (BYPD) trends and plans.

In the survey, employees from Singapore said their companies are the most proactive in using digital rights management rather than device-level access management to control the flow of potentially sensitive company information.The nations included in the survey were the U.S., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the U.K., Australia, Singapore, India and the Beijing region of China.

Among the questions, Dell asked IT managers: "Should companies focus on users or devices when developing a BYOD strategy?"

Thirty percent of managers in the U.S. said their companies are more likely to focus on users over devices. In Singapore, that number was more than twice as high, with 63% of managers saying they would focus more on users. Forty-one percent of those surveyed in Germany said their companies put users ahead of devices, while 56% said the same thing in the U.K.

Dell's survey results are supported by past surveys from service providers and research firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

A 2012 global survey of CIOs by PwC found that 28% said their workforce was using personal devices for work-related tasks. That percentage is expected to rise to 35% by mid-2013.

In a survey last year, PwC said U.S. IT managers indicated BYOD is on their radar, yet most businesses have not yet developed appropriate policies. According to PwC, just 43% of respondents said that their organization has implemented a security strategy for the use of employee-owned devices. And only 27% of U.S. respondents believed their mobile security was adequate to pass an audit.

"CIOs must rethink the traditional, rigid approach to governing access to data, applications and networks," PwC wrote in its survey report. "What is needed is a device-agnostic strategy that leverages investments in the employee's personal technology to create a more mobile, agile and cost-effective platform for the business."

User-centric organizations are more likely to agree that putting user needs first is essential if BYOD is to be beneficial (Source: Dell Software)

Dell's survey results were similar.

About three quarters of those polled by Dell said that BYOD can only deliver massive benefits if the specific needs and rights of each user are understood; while only an estimated 17% of organizations encourage BYOD and actively manage any device employees wish to use -- showing they understand the need to empower employees.

When the IT managers were asked what BYOD means to their organization, the response was varied; 11% said it is just "employees wanting to use their tablets." But 32% chose the more sophisticated response: "The BYOD movement is about much more than managing devices -- it's about users, how they do their jobs and the degree to which organizations empower them to achieve maximum productivity -- regardless of device or location."

Typically, companies with BYOD policies focus on specific mobile phones, tablets and their OSes, attempting to add each new model into their mobile device management schemes. Instead, a more effective approach is to control data access through digital rights -- regardless of the hardware, according to Carol Fawcett, CIO of Dell Software Group.

"Instead of worrying about their devices, we focused on enabling access to the apps and data needed by the appropriate individuals regardless of device," she said in a statement. "We found this approach allowed us to be much more strategic and enabled us to focus on our biggest BYOD problems; security, access rights and data leakage.

"This includes using an active directory-type system database to understand who these employees are and then provision the devices accordingly," Fawcett said.

BYOD is resulting in increased complexity (Source: Dell Software)

Six in ten organizations (59%) indicated that without BYOD they think they could get left behind - this figure is largely made up of those who are already benefitting from BYOD, and is highest in Italy and the USA (both 72%) and lowest in Germany (39%) - the country also least likely to manage users over devices.

On average, Dell survey respondents identified four personal gains for their employees, including more flexible working hours, the ability to foster creativity, speediedr innovation, and better teamwork/collaboration.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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Tags consumerization of ITDellBring Your Own Device (BYOD)IT management

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