It’s fair to say that the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has firmly established itself in the business world. The ability of employees to be able to choose different devices for work use including smartphones, laptops and tablets can enhance productivity and job satisfaction. However, the BYO trend is evolving; CIOs and IT professionals need to address new challenges, opportunities, and trends such as ‘Bring Your Own Collaboration’ (BYOC).

BYO is no longer just about accommodating various devices, but also about platforms and applications. Many employees communicate professionally with suppliers, partners and customers far beyond the corporate firewall. Consequently, they need access beyond the corporate network to collaborate outside of that environment. When employers do not provide the right supporting tools and applications, employees will increasingly choose their own solutions, a phenomenon that can be referred to as ‘BYOC’.

A host of new business challenges

We know that employees turn to consumer-oriented solutions for collaboration when they need to share large files or information quickly. In a recent study by the Harris Group, commissioned by IntraLinks, 46 percent of the respondents indicated that sharing critical information with partners, suppliers and consultants is an important aspect of their work.

To transfer these files from A to B, they often turn to ad-hoc consumer file sharing solutions which fail to provide the necessary security and audit-tracking needed in the enterprise. Whether they realise it or not, employees that use consumer-grade tools to share business information are creating vulnerabilities for the organisation’s data, as well as compromising compliance with laws and regulations.

As a result, CIOs must pay close attention to the corporate processes and policies when it comes to managing and exchanging confidential information with external parties outside the firewall. In short, CIOs need a tool that combines the freedom to share data with the ability to control and govern IT.

The use of cloud-based solutions to collaborate and share information gives organisations the necessary flexibility and agility to enable employees to work with complex networks of third party providers and collaborate with partners. Being able to provide controlled access to confidential information by third parties, coupled with visibility into who has opened which documents and when, all combine to provide a highly secure and auditable way to share information outside of the firewall.

Furthermore, a solution that is user-friendly and readily accessible from different devices such as tablets or smartphones ensures that employees work more securely and efficiently.

Send faster and share more securely

Inexpensive or free consumer collaboration tools are a false economy on many levels. For example, these platforms are not secure and do not provide regulation-compliant or auditable tools for businesses. The use of consumer collaboration tools for business purposes can then be costly to a business, not just to the bottom line due to fines for data breaches, such as those recently handed out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but also to corporate reputation and customer relationships if data loss occurs.

It can be tempting to think that preventing access to consumer-oriented collaboration tools is an appropriate response. While this is a preventative step, without a secure and corporate approved alternative collaboration tool in place, employees will merely find other ways to circumvent restrictions and continue using insecure methods to share data. It should be the goal of every CIO to enable business users to be productive and work efficiently and securely by deploying the right technology.

At a business level, security, ease and speed of use should be standard features of business tools. When it comes to information and cooperation, the challenge also lies in how information is monitored and controlled based on the receiver’s access rights. The one-dimensional nature of consumer-oriented collaboration tools cannot solve these complex business issues. These tools do not answer questions like ‘Where is my data, who can access it, did the receiver read it and what happens with my data after receipt?’

Smarter solutions

Organisations need collaboration tools that can monitor and manage data exchange based on specific individual access and rights authorisations. Businesses also need to be able to customise access rights based on the recipient in question; for example, individuals that are granted read-only access, those that can print or copy the data, those allowed to edit or share the information with others, amongst other limitations.

The security of sensitive business information does not lie solely in the actual exchange of data, but also with the data itself, which must be encrypted and protected. Employees are typically unaware of the risks they are placing on the business when they use consumer-grade file sharing solutions. CIOs therefore need to clearly communicate the security dangers of platforms that don’t offer these capabilities to employees.

To enable the smooth transition and adoption of a new collaboration platform, businesses need the appropriate collaboration tool to be quick and easy to use, both in the office and when working remotely. CIOs must turn their attention to ‘BYOC’ as employees increasingly collaborate with partners, suppliers and consultants externally.

Businesses therefore need to have the appropriate tools to enable this, while ensuring their business critical data is secure both inside and outside of the corporate firewall. Through implementing the correct tools prescribed, businesses can ensure ‘BYOC’ does not become the new CIO headache.