Many of us know to “bring your own bottle” (BYOB) to parties and like BYOB in social circles, “bring your own device” (BYOD) is an extremely popular trend in the workplace. While it might not damage our health like alcohol, BYOD could give enterprise IT departments a headache. But, this could create opportunities for service providers to offer solutions that address the challenges of BYOD for enterprise customers.

BYOD’s growing popularity and business benefits

Interest in BYOD appears to be translating into real demand. Heavy Reading, an independent research company was recently commissioned by my company to find out what demand service providers are seeing from enterprise customers on BYOD.

The responses suggest that service providers are anticipating increased demand in the next 12 months. The majority of surveyed service providers (73 percent) expect to see a 10-25 percent increase in BYOD device requests from business customers in the coming year due to the recognised benefits for businesses.

Cost savings, employee satisfaction and increased productivity are cited as the primary benefits of BYOD for service providers’ business customers, with almost half of service provider respondents believing that BYOD will decrease costs and increase productivity by 10-25 percent for these customers.

Younger employees in particular naturally assume they will be able to use their own devices when interfacing with corporate tools and systems, without hassle or slow-downs. This expectation has created a difficult situation for IT departments, who want their employees to be able to comfortably use their own personal devices, without endangering the company’s network security or valuable data.

And then there is the problem of the devices that IT doesn’t know about.

IT departments today think they only have a handful of devices being used outside of the office – a PC and smartphone for most staff and perhaps a tablet for some higher level execs. But in reality, multiple devices are being used behind IT departments’ backs across entire organisations.

This trend is only set to grow. A recent Forrester report predicts a 58 percent expected growth in employees bringing smartphones to work in the next 12 months, whether BYOD-supported or not, which will mean some gnashing of teeth in enterprise IT departments as they begin worrying about the security of their company’s data.

The very real security threat

Most organisations do not have the tools to ensure security of their data on any and every device, especially when those devices will be by either partially or totally unmanaged. BYOD comes with increased liability, as outside apps may pose security risks. With thousands of new apps being released on a daily basis, devices are susceptible to viruses or even data hacking.

So BYOD offerings will have to incorporate very specific policies and include mobile management. IT departments will need to oversee and support various passwords for enterprise-specific apps. Employee usage will be another area to consider, as data control may be a concern. Even though BYOD policies may be in place, service providers will have to be vigilant and ready for potential failures or breaches.

These are all factors that will have to be considered by both the businesses and the supporting service providers. This puts the service provider at a whole new level of management and responsibility, and business customers will be looking to them to handle such requests immediately. Service providers will have to get past their own operational hurdles to provide such services quickly and in real-time, while guaranteeing security for both the network and data.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a global survey of service providers found that the majority respondents feel that security is the biggest problem in supporting business customers’ BYOD initiatives.

But security isn’t the only problem: “BYOD creates new complexities for both the enterprise and the service provider who must support features such as device care, bill split, security, shared loyalty and data plans and differentiated quality of service,” says Ari Banerjee of Heavy Reading. “If service providers can overcome the technological challenges of providing these features, the enhanced customer experience will lead to huge gains in customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

Overcoming security and other challenges

BSS/OSS integration is essential for overcoming security issues and other challenges. Despite 77 percent of respondents of the Amdocs global survey stating that residential and business BSS/OSS integration is needed to support the BYOD market and specific business requests, less than half are able to link personal and corporate personas.

The lack of BSS/OSS convergence (53 percent) is cited as the main inhibitor, because it prevents a single view of the customer (51 percent). The absence of a flexible product catalog (37 percent) and a real-time system for post-paid enterprise customers (31 percent) were also identified as significant concerns for service providers.

The business segment represents huge revenue potential for service providers, and to capitalise on this market they will need to offer tailored and competitive offerings, including BYOD. By converging BSS and OSS, service providers gain a unified customer view required to support BYOD requests, such as creating hybrid plans and offering device support, ultimately simplifying the customer experience.

Service providers will need to ensure that their own systems are upgraded and ready to provide such offerings to their business customers, and that they are able to implement such services quickly and securely, while providing support in real-time.

Let’s have a round to celebrate!

As service providers continue to grapple with their own operational issues, they must increase their revenue stream in order to compete in the competitive landscape. This means enhancing the customer experience for their business customers, while meeting their business customers’ demands. ‘The consumerisation of IT’ is one of those increasing demands and this trend is being driven by the increased popularity of BYOD.

Business customers will have to establish their unique BYOD polices and determine (to what degree) employees will handle their own devices and what type of support the business will provide. BYOD comes with increased liability, because outside apps may pose security risks.

BYOD offerings will have to incorporate very specific policies and include mobile management, and IT departments will find it necessary to oversee and support various passwords for enterprise-specific apps. Employee usage will be another area to consider, as data control may be a concern.

Consumerisation of IT is definitely here and increasing in demand. It is now up to the service providers and their business customers to satisfy this market. Service providers are seeking a solution that can help them support all of their requirements while also integrating with their current BSS/OSS systems.

These challenges are not insurmountable, but will demand service providers converging their BSS and OSS systems so that they have an end-to-end view of the customer, linking personal and business personas. With this in place, split bills for work and personal calls, secure business emails and shared loyalty plans, will become a matter of routine. IT departments will be popping bottles to celebrate!