Enterprises, primarily large ones have always had the last say in terms of what hardware and software its employees can use. All of that is changing now. Experts believe- the rate of change in technology today is the fastest we have ever seen and individuals are right on the curve, as against enterprises, which typically have a longer cycle in adapting new technologies. More and more employees are demanding to use their preferred device and software at their workplace, and slowly but surely, enterprises have started relenting to this collective demand. Moreover, advancements in IT for the individual - from the launch of the internet in 1990 and emails to social networking, smartphones and tablets - the era of tech-savvy users has witnessed tremendous growth.
The overall trend, consumerization of IT is gaining momentum with the rising popularity of social media vehicles. These platforms are changing the face of communication altogether for customer relationship management, branding and positioning, and the acquisition of new consumers.
Corporate v/s consumer IT
|Devices with limited functionalities such as phone calls, emails, etc.
||Smartphones with a variety of applications|
|Linked to servers and hence restricted storage for files and emails
||Virtually unlimited storage with emergence of cloud|
|Static content, employee directories and corporate collaboration platforms with strict monitoring
||Social media networks, dynamic content such as blogs, wiki which can be customized|
|Long replacement cycles and update procedures
||Updated hardware and instant download of apps and new services|
|Standardized interface and restricted environment
||Consumer centric applications, skins which can be customized|
Source: KPMG in India Analysis
Connectivity with mobility through the proliferation of smartphones and tablets is driving consumerization. Apple and Android have transformed the use of consumer devices for business purposes, as growing numbers of users are demanding access to corporate information on their personal devices. This trend has given rise to a new concept in the IT sector - ‘bring your own device' (BYOD).
BYOD - the concept
BYOD is a concept of using personal devices for business or bringing one’s own devices to the workplace for official purposes. Personal devices are becoming increasingly advanced, flexible, and addictive, as lifestyle progressively assumes an ‘on the move’ avatar.
BYOD - why is it becoming necessary?
Currently, the world is home to more than 1 billion smartphone users, along with over 118 million tablet users. Smartphone users have increased by 46.6 percent during 2011–121 and are expected to cross the 2 billion mark by 20151 Further, tablet users have increased by 98 percent over the same period and are expected to account for about 369 million by 20162. These users are experiencing increasingly powerful, ubiquitous and inexpensive devices in small footprint, which is simplifying the use of such anytime-anywhere devices. At present, the average number of connected devices to a knowledge worker is 2.8, and at the current adoption rate, it is expected to reach 3.3 by 20143. In future, these workers are likely to prefer synchronizing their device usage to better manage their work, which would enhance their productivity. Moreover, the comfort of using personal devices at work can be expected to provide greater job satisfaction.
The benefits of BYOD are not restricted to employees; the concept is advantageous for enterprises as well. Currently, enterprises bear the cost of hardware needed for official work; with BYOD, enterprises can save on these hardware costs. Further, the concept has potential to drive the adoption of cloud services and the virtualization of desktop among enterprises. This, in turn, is capable of reducing server and internal IT infrastructure costs.
What is hindering BYOD?
Flexibility, advancement and cost saving without too many legal hurdles, can smoothly drive the adoption of new concepts such as BYOD. However, as is the case with any other IT innovation or trendsetter, BYOD poses certain challenges to adoption. Among these, breach of security is one of the most prominent challenges. Data security is a priority for enterprises, and with decentralised hardware management and the use of various technology platforms, guaranteeing data security difficulties becoming extremely challenging for IT departments.
It can be assumed that employees would use devices that use the best possible technology. However, this may not be the case as a result of factors such as lack of awareness around using such devices or low preference for advanced technology products. In such a scenario, the cost saving benefit may have a reversal effect.
Additionally, only a few sectors with a large knowledge-worker base may promote such initiatives. Sectors with a relatively low knowledge-worker population may not encourage BYOD.
KPMG in India’s point of view
BYOD is a concept that comes with benefits of cost saving, enhanced employee satisfaction and increased productivity. However, data security issues could make adoption and cascading difficult. Moreover, BYOD enterprise wide implementation is difficult, as it is dependent on a considerable degree of individual interest and knowledge.
Additionally, enterprises with global operations would find it difficult to implement a BYOD policy across multiple countries unless the ecosystem is supportive.
Further, to do more, enterprises have to rework on the traditional IT policies and build a new ecosystem of offering apps that can be downloaded and used from any location, platform, and device. To do this they have to conduct a return on investment analysis, benchmark with ongoing cost, develop awareness around consumer IT trends among employees, and then set up a process of keep a check to ensure data safety.
There can be multiple strategies of deploying BYOD depending on the cost structure as well as data security. For industries such as financial services with high data security, enterprises would be liable for devices, whereas, for industries like education, the individual would be liable for the devices. This would enable the enterprises to establish a cost structure as well as implement new IT policies.
Thus, the adoption of BYOD could enable enterprises to build a flexible and virtual ecosystem with a reduced cost structure. However, extreme caution must be exercised as far as data safety and security is concerned, which can be addressed with available BYOD solutions.
1. “Worldwide smartphone users hit 1 billion mark,” The Hindu (Business Line), 18 October 2012
2. “Gartner Says Worldwide Media Tablets Sales to Reach 119 Million Units in 2012,” Gartner website, www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1980115, accessed October 2012
3. “BYOD and Virtualization,” Cisco IBSG Horizons Study, 2012, p2.