IT Not Yet Sold on BYOD

Most shops don't yet sanction bring-your-own-device, but it's likely they will in the long term.

If the mere mention of the words "bring your own device" (BYOD) is enough to make you wince, here's a dose of sanity: an overwhelming majority of shops don't yet sanction BYOD. Employees aren't encouraged, much less permitted, to plug their personal devices into the corporate network.

That's the conclusion of a new survey from Robert Half Technology, an IT staffing firm that routinely surveys chief information officers (CIO) and other IT decision-makers. The Robert Half survey found that two-thirds of shops don't support BYOD; just one-third of IT chiefs sanction the practice.

In IT organizations that do sanction BYOD, few are supporting it with bread-and-butter IT resources, such as troubleshooting or help-desk support. According to Robert Half's survey, two-thirds of BYOD-ers offer only "limited technical support;" just 28 percent offer full support, and six percent won't support BYOD users at all.

At this point, Robert Half officials say, enterprises have decided that the costs of BYOD outweigh its benefits. "Companies are balancing the desire to provide flexibility to employees with potential security risks, as well as logistical issues such as providing support for non-standard devices," said John Reed, senior executive director of Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

There's a chance, however, that the benefits of BYOD might eventually outweigh its risks, particularly as vendors and information security experts refine the BYOD paradigm. That's the hoped-for ideal. The less ideal, but perhaps more likely, outcome is that the ongoing transformation of the workplace experience -- which increasingly gives priority to both mobility and anytime-anywhere access -- might tip the scales in favor of BYOD, even before all of its wrinkles have been ironed out.

"Professionals increasingly want to stay connected while using their device of choice for both work and personal communication," said Reed. "Companies recognize this and are actively looking for secure solutions."

Reed's statement is an acknowledgment of the sheer irresistibility of BYOD as a transformational force. Just because a company makes a policy decision to prohibit BYOD doesn't mean its employees are going to toe the policy line. If IT hasn't implemented appropriate policies or controls -- e.g., network admission control (NAC), endpoint or client-side policies on desktops or laptops -- it can't effectively police BYOD. That's one reason many industry watchers see consumerization -- the driving force behind BYOD -- as something that's simply beyond IT's control.

Is BYOD Inevitable?

A recent report from International Data Corp.'s (IDC) Asia-Pacific research unit found that CIOs and IT decision-makers are under increasing pressure to accommodate BYOD. IDC describes BYOD as an almost vise-like force -- with IT pinched between a top-down push from C-level executives and the bottom-up insurgency of end users. "One in every two [organizations intends] to deploy official BYOD policies, be it pilots, or partial- to [organizational]-wide rollouts, in the next 18 months," according to Amy Cheah, market analyst for infrastructure with IDC ANZ.

Cheah invoked that most dreaded of terms -- "disconnect" -- to describe the conflicting priorities of IT and management. "[T]here is a disconnect between the assumptions and expectations held by CIOs and IT decision makers -- and commonly by supply-side [organizations] -- and the majority of employees when it comes to consumer technologies, device usage, and responsibility," she continued.

"IDC's Next Generation Workspace Ecosystem research has found that only two out of ten employees want to use their own device for work and for personal use, which means corporate devices are still desired by the majority."

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