It’s peak hour, and the bus stop has a queue of commuters plugged into their mobile device by earphones while they massage the screen to pick up email, messages or play games. No more reading the morning paper, or having an idle chat with a fellow commuter, the last few years have brought unprecedented change to how we interact and communicate with fellow commuters, colleagues, families, friends and employers.

According to IDC, by 2013 the global mobile workforce will exceed 1.19 billion. It is expected that a large percentage of those workers will have smartphones and tablets.

The rise in mobility, ubiquity of network access, proliferation of social media applications, and shifting expectations from consumers is imprinting an indelible mark on business processes. The consumerisation of IT, or the BYOX (where X = anything from apps, data or the latest mobile device) trend, is fundamentally changing how business engages with its workforce.

The younger generation, in particular, expects that when they go to work, they won’t have to downgrade their IT tools, such as an iPad, for desktop PC to get the job done. This generation is saying: “thanks for the job, here’s my device. How do I attach it to the network, and where do I download my work apps?”

Now armed with a smartphone or tablet, today’s worker expects to have just one device to access email, contacts, calendars and social media, as well as their work applications. In the space of just a couple of years, the once conservative, cautious IT manager has had to rethink long-standing policies, procedures and practices to keep up with trends being driven by employees.

An Ovum Group BYOD study revealed that nearly 70% of smartphone-owning professionals now use their personal devices to access corporate data, but suggested that 80% of these devices are not adequately managed by their IT departments.

Instinctively, IT managers may baulk at the idea of employees connecting their own mobility devices to the network, and for good reason. Information security and data confidentiality are at the top of the list. Managing back-up, and availability of data also hit some hot buttons, as does the limited availability of IT support teams to support users effectively when something goes wrong with the device. One of the first things to do as part of a mobile strategy is to sort out the mobile device management (MDM) layer.

And it’s not just about managing the employees’ personal devices for business use. There is also the apps, the data, mobile platforms and operating systems – in addition to ensuring security and compliance with company and regulatory requirements, including a combination of business, legal, HR and IT infrastructure procedures and processes.

What’s needed is a mobility strategy to manage security, governance, support, policies and procedures to help manage this new paradigm. Business also needs to invest in network infrastructure, fortify themselves against security breaches and, most importantly, establish clear guidelines through their enterprise mobility policies.

Key factors to consider include understanding just what impact BYOD will have on the existing network; what additional cost there will be in managing personal devices; the ROI, and how it can be measured effectively. In particular, it is worth asking: how will information that’s being accessed by personal devices be controlled?; how is data being distributed and stored?; what is the security policy, and how is it enforced?; and what type of partners or expertise is required to help deliver a successful BYOD roll-out?

There’s no doubt that a sound mobility strategy around the BYOD trend will optimise efficiency in the workforce, and deliver benefits back to the business. Developing a robust strategy will offer a consistent yet simple user experience, while maximising the value of existing IT investments. It should also offer control over where data resides and how it’s accessed; and deliver flexibility and choice in private versus public secure cloud access.

Through 2016, Gartner Research cites 60% of enterprises without information governance and retention management strategies will experience data loss and discovery incidences.

Mobility and the consumerisation of IT are clearly disruptive trends. By shifting management and policy focus to the users rather than devices, and extending the current enterprise data management model rather than replacing it, enterprise IT managers can work with their employees to develop a seamless, convenient user experience in a way that doesn’t compromise IT efficiency, security or governance.