What are we going to do about BYOD? You may think this is a redundant question – as for a lot of organizations, the reality is that BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, has already ‘won.’
Look at what seems to be some pretty powerful realities here. Generation Y, the name generally given by sociologists to the cohort of young people coming into employment now and over the last couple of years, simply have no patience with what they see as fuddy-duddy rules and regulations about information. Given all the power and functionality of what they can do on the devices that they carry round all the time, can you really blame them; you’re telling me I can’t share thisinformation instantaneously with anyone else?
IT shouldn’t be that surprised about this kind of attitude, as, let’s face it, it’s what powered the original grass-roots user tech rebellion – that of the PC in the 1980s; this is when managers got so sick and tired of waiting for reports when the ‘Data Processing’ department told them that reports couldn’t even be scheduled to be looked at for six months, that they went out and sourced their own Macs and IBM PCs to get on with the job themselves.
That kind of can-do attitude is fantastic. But there’s a big change between that revolution and the BYOD one. This time, we are exposing our data to the whole world (which was pretty much impossible with the closed networks and primitive data storage capacities of 1984). Which makes BYOD a lot more of a troubling proposition to CIOs than a few PCs round the place ever did. And quite rightly.
It is very doubtful that we’ll ever get back to the ‘good old days’ (were they that good?) when you showed a user their desktop or corporate laptop, gave them a password and that was it. We do have to accept that people expect a lot more from technology and networks, and that their expectations of what IT in the business can give them are quite small, probably.
But how best to deal with a situation where so much kit and so much software is unsanctioned and unsupported by IT? Because that is the reality we are living with now, thanks to BYOD.
Well, you can ban it. It’s worth a try. What will happen; they’ll just ignore you – or walk round with two phones, one a boring work one, one the funky one that they do their actual work on. (You are probably only too aware of the so-called ‘Shadow IT’ phenomenon at work here – where all sorts of services and systems are getting procured by people who wouldn ’t think twice about calling boring old IT… until it breaks, and they are on to the Service Desk demanding a fix that second!)
By the way, this whole situation has become really problematic only since BlackBerry effectively died as the corporate default device. That is a problem not just for that vendor’s investors and shareholders, but a lot of corporate IT people too – as, at a stroke, a robust and secure platform simply vanished as an option.
Back to strategies. You could try and monitor what happens, setting up virtual speed cameras to see what people are doing on the Web, trying to curb excess mileage on the old Information Superhighway that’s not work related. Hmm. Good luck with that if they are on YouTube because marketing tasked the to do some social media outreach. No, the fact is that the genie is out of the bottle here. That doesn’t mean you’re going to just give up and do nothing.
For one, we absolutely need help – as users – from you (and the CSO if we have one) on what we should and shouldn’t be doing (if not, the magic letters ‘DPA Act’ should bring you back to your senses) – thought so! But we also need ways – as users, and as responsible, th oughtful peers in the organization – to access corporate information while out and about that is safe and secure.
On our side, the supplier side of the Enterprise Content Management industry, we have recognized this issue and have started to try and help. Thus at this year’s CeBIT trade show in Germany, Europe’s largest tech trade expo, we and other peers announced practical help here in the form of new mobile apps that you can start to offer as a safe alternative for people who need to access core systems.
It’s possibly early days here and we might have a long way to go together. The point is, know we are aware of the issue we all face here and are starting to look to help you.
But without a doubt, ‘doing something’ about BYOD has to mean something more than a shrug and sitting on your hands … your corporate data assets deserve much, much more respect and protection than that. The reality that you need to take on board, now, is that the team is already sharing your company data and organizational information as sets via all these free Google Docs/ SkyDrive etc. media. Which means that you need to talk to them now to start help shape a better response.
Because God only knows how much stuff is already out there! Let’s do what we can to keep all this first manageable, then safe once again.
Tony Cheung is an experienced software delivery professional with more than 15 years experience leading and managing software operations and customer-facing services implementations. As Managing Technical Director of EASY Software UK Tony focuses on customer solutions and applications delivery, setting the company’s technical direction and spearheading a number of business and sales partnerships.