Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has transformed how employees use technology, what technology they get and how that technology (devices) is managed.
The iPad, the poster child for BYOD, started it all as executives and others demanded IT let them use Apple’s device in the office, and be able to access corporate resources.
To some degree this had already happened with the iPhone, but the iPad pushed BYOD to new heights. Now with Android devices gaining in popularity, BYOD is roaring ahead.
But is this the long term future? Will employees be able to buy whatever device they want and assume their employer will figure out how to make it work, from both a management and security view, on the corporate network?
Not necessarily. A raft of Mobile Device Danagement (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) solutions have been developed designed to help IT get a much better handle on BYOD, but it clearly will be more efficient for companies to have a short list of approved devices than to take an anything goes approach.
IT and enterprise managers in general also have a much better idea of the value of tablets than they did when the first iPads started to appear back in 2010. As a result, tablets in the enterprise have come a long way from the employee-driven BYOD phase, to where now companies are buying them in droves and IT has policies, or is hopefully developing policies, to manage their use.
(BYOD and app management will be the focus of one of the key sessions at the upcoming TabletBiz conference & expo coming to New York on November 13, 2013).
Bye bye BYOD?
So is this the end of BYOD? There's no evidence to suggest that's likely any time soon or even that BYOD is limited to smartphones and tablets.
There's a new wave of devices such as smart watches and Google Glass that could well find their way on to corporate networks well before companies start buying them for employees.
But there's also no question that BYOD is evolving. As companies take over the purchasing, some have labelled this new phase, COPE for Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled.
The idea, as the name implies, is that your employer buys your smartphone, tablet, iWatch etc., but you have a fair level of control as to what's stored there. Specifically, some of the newer MAM / MDM solutions will partition personal apps and content on the device separate from those you need to do your job.
Citrix VP of Mobile Chris Fleck offers a few examples of how COPE works.
“If a company buys a tablet for the delivery guy, you probably don't want him playing Angry Birds on it, so IT can lock it down,” says Fleck. "But a sales guy, well there are a range of apps he needs to use including CRM and email. And that device is probably going to be with him all the time, so it's reasonable to let him get his personal email or even say let his kids play games on it when he's home."
Citrix XenMobile is designed to secure both Android and iOS apps in a number of different ways. On the iPad for example, someone could use the native email app to open an attachment (that may include sensitive company information) and simply download it to their personal Dropbox account.
To deal with that scenario, Citrix offers its own secure version of email for iOS that will only let the users see approved apps. Citrix offers its own Worx app store of secure mobile apps (its own and others from a growing list of third party vendors).
Fleck thinks that devices like Apple’s rumored iWatch will broaden the range of BYOD devices and the need for IT to accommodate them with software management solutions designed for the growing number of mobile devices.
A new wave of devices and challenges
Analyst Charles King says there’s a dichotomy when it comes to devices in the enterprises.
“On the one hand, there’s an assumption that if you allow employees to choose and use the devices they prefer, it increases their job satisfaction and, ideally, their work productivity,” said King, principal analyst of Pund-IT.
“But if you give too much latitude and choice, it begins to impinge on the security and management of the devices being used.”
King says that if new devices like the iWatch and Google Glass take off “businesses will be in for another round of trying to keep ahead and manage these things.”