Staff increasingly prefer to use own communications devices at work

Dr Gilbert Saggia, Cisco Regional Manager

An iPad user at the office: Employees can now work from almost anywhere, anytime they need to provided that the right technology is there to support connectivity and provide security.

Office IT policies that allow employees to “Bring Your Own Device” into the workplace have become hotly debated in enterprises across various sectors and geographies. Aside from the sporadic Facebook update, what are the business arguments being made by employees today and how do the benefits stack up against the IT risks?

In recent months, regional CIOs have found themselves in a particularly challenging position. Thanks to an array of technology innovations flooding the modern workplace, employees can work almost anywhere and anytime they need to provided that the right technology is there to support connectivity and more importantly, provide security.

The influx of such technology innovations has resulted in a notable shift in employee attitudes. Whether a junior hire or a senior executive, individuals are eager to capitalize on new devices as a way to be more productive and comfortable in their daily routines. The modern worker has become so accustomed to the ease-of-use of their own personal devices that they see no reason why they can’t use these tools for work as well as for play.

In allowing workers to bring their personal devices into the workplace, the term “bring-your-own-device” or “BYOD” has come to inspire a new debate occurring in various industries.

A recent Cisco survey of over 600 IT leaders cited that by 2014, the average worker will interact with 3.3 connected devices, up from an average of 2.8 in 2012, adding that over three-fourths (76 per cent) of IT leaders surveyed categorized BYOD as somewhat or extremely positive for their organizations, while also acknowledging the need for new technology solutions to address emerging security threats and IT support requirements for multiple mobile platforms.

In the last year particularly, the demands of individuals to leverage their tablet computers and smartphones to extend their productivity has led many IT departments to consider less restrictive policies.

Given the various needs that different devices serve, most employees today carry multiple devices. For example, a laptop is not as portable as a smartphone, so people are likely to carry their smartphone for mobile communications. Tablets are powerful devices as well, but it is likely laptops and PCs will still be used for document creation and publishing. If these cannot be connected through a shared network, productivity is likely to go down as users forego certain actions because accessibility.

Increasingly, work is an activity that people do, not a place to which they go. Extended connectivity through mobile and remote access to the corporate network gives employees tremendous flexibility and increased productivity. It also leads to a blurring of the line between work time and personal time, with employees trading set work schedules for the flexibility of working when and where they want to.

Many employees are willing to use their personal tablet or smartphone, for example, to access work applications, with the effect of this device overlap being that corporate and personal data will be increasingly shared across multiple devices, leading to security and privacy challenges.

(Dr Gilbert Saggia is Cisco’s regional manager. Twitter: @DrGSAGGIA)