For some time now IT managers and IT decision-makers have come under increasing pressure to enable the use of personal devices in the work environment. In just a short period of time ‘bring your own device’ has become common business parlance. But for businesses, simply allowing access of personal devices isn’t the answer.

To ensure success it’s a question of enabling relevant, secure access across the entire network, while protecting corporate assets and delivering an optimal user experience. However, there are quantifiable benefits associated with allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on their employers’ networks.

A recent survey showed that 95% of respondents said their organisations permit employee owned devices in some way, shape or form in the workplace. IT managers are balancing security and support concerns with the very real potential to reap significant cost and productivity benefits from the BYOD trend.

The survey also found that BYOD is just the gateway to greater business benefits. Over 75% of IT leaders surveyed categorised BYOD as somewhat or extremely positive for their companies, while seeing significant challenges for IT.

These findings underscore that BYOD is here to stay, and managers are now acknowledging the need for a more holistic approach – one that is scalable and addresses mobility, security, virtualisation and network policy management, in order to keep management costs in line while simultaneously providing optimal experiences where savings can be realised.

These research findings support my company’s assertion that mobility needs to extend well beyond BYOD to include the integration of service provider mobility, enterprise mobility, security, collaboration and desktop virtualisation solutions.

As such, the BYOD model will inevitably demand new support and operational structuring requiring businesses to plan and budget accordingly. In the future, for example, we will see people being given an IT allowance to buy their own laptops, smartphones etc. However with this freedom comes the requirement for appropriate security measurements, especially in financial services where employees often have to access information.

Minimise risk, especially data loss

As part of the decision to allow employees to use any device for work, including unmanaged personal devices, along with computer security incident response teams, companies need to consider security applications such as a tool that would block malicious websites before they loaded onto browsers. In short, they want protection against everyday threats—specifically those without a known signature. However, the solution also needs to preserve the user experience—not only to ensure productivity, but also to prevent employees from changing their browser settings.

One common theme among organisations moving toward the practice of BYOD is that there is buy-in from top executives who are helping not only to bring the matter to the forefront in the company, but also drive it further. Executives are playing a lead role in increasing adoption of BYOD in the enterprise. They’re taking the risk of embracing the chaos, but also saying, ‘We will do this systemically and architecturally, and evaluate our progress every step of the way’.

Facilitating flexible working and the benefits

The traditional stereotype of the nine-to-five office job is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. Adopting mobile technology means employers can offer employees a better work-life balance beyond the traditional nine-to-five culture, we are seeing a shift from the workplace to a workspace.

From CIOs downwards, flexible working hours are hugely appealing to a lot of employees. It’s also important in driving a strong inclusion and diversity culture, attracting and retaining a broad demographic of staff. Now, people’s work extends beyond their desks and PCs – attitudes towards information access, mobile devices and social media have put pressure on businesses to adopt new technologies and improve IT infrastructure.

This shift is causing concern for companies without the IT infrastructure to support personal mobile devices and data. This has led to a struggle in attracting top talent in competition with niche or global organisations that do have the capability to support the latest and greatest technology for employees.

Ultimately, productivity is not only going to be dependent on the freedom to choose a device, or the ease of access to information, or the quality of the connection when consuming bandwidth intensive content. It will largely depend on the tools available on those devices.

What factors should be considered before introducing BYOD?

The specific demands of an organisation’s industry segment (regulatory demands) and corporate culture (risk tolerance versus innovation) drive BYOD decisions. For many organisations today, the BYOD issue is less a matter of ‘No, we can’t do it’ and more a question of ‘How do we do it? What positive, responsive actions should we take to manage the mobile device situation in our organisation?

There have been a number of organisations in recent months moving from either blocking or ignoring, to embracing. As a result, these progressive organisations are already beginning to see the business value, ranging from increased productivity to becoming a more inclusive and diverse organisation.

Governance is critical to the success of the “Any Device” journey. My company maintains a BYOD steering committee, which is led by IT but includes key stakeholders from other business units, such as human resources and legal.

As part of the approval process, the employee also has to sign up to a model that will enable data to be remotely wiped on their device should it be deemed necessary. Other factors to consider include workforce mobility, the proliferation of new devices, and acquisition integration and management of offshore and offsite outsource relationships, are also key drivers.

Completing the ‘any device’ journey

End users expectations based on their consumer habits, such as apps usage on their smartphones and the speed of deploying such services, places a level of demands and challenges on IT managers to provide a similar service level internal within their corporate infrastructure. Mobility products and services to help enterprises develop a holistic, scalable approach to their mobility initiative while keeping operational costs in line and optimising user experience.

Enterprises need to create “The Unified Workspace”, an integrated and strategic approach to the enterprise workspace that is focused on helping employees access all of the people and resources they need to do their jobs effectively from wherever they are, on whatever device they choose and with an enhanced quality of experience.

Many people think BYOD is about the ‘device’, but it’s much broader than that. It’s about ensuring consistency of the user experience working from any device, whether it’s in a wired or wireless environment or in the cloud. Wi-Fi is now becoming more business critical as users have more devices to connect. As such, employees may need to connect multiple devices (business and personal) to the network and IT managers are faced with the challenge of ensuring the security architecture is fit for purpose and provides a unified policy for all users on all devices whether wireless or VPN.

A unified management platform considers all the policy elements for interaction. It focuses on your data, how it’s secured, and how it traverses inside all of those different environments. All of these things must be taken into account when moving to BYOD – it really is a change in mind-set.