BYO tech policy a given by 2013: Survey

Many employers planning on providing subsidies, stipends to offset costs to workers

Bring your own (BYO) technology is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace, with 94 per cent of organizations worldwide intending to have a formal BYO policy in place by 2013, according to a recent survey. Currently, 44 per cent of employers have this policy in place, found the Bring Your Own Index by Citrix Systems, which polled 700 IT officers (100 from Canada).

“There are two reasons that BYO is being embraced with organizations,” said Mick Hollison, vice-president of desktop marketing and strategy at Citrix in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “There are those that are using BYO to keep up with the rapid consumerization of enterprise IT and then there are the forward-thinking CIOs who have embraced BYO as a way to attract the best talent, encourage a flexible environment and raise productivity levels.”

Bring your own technology includes laptops, used by 38 per cent of survey respondents, smartphones (29 per cent) and tablet computers (eight per cent). Most organizations (62 per cent) use desktop virtualization technology that enables employees to simply log on to a website from their device and access their work desktop, shared drives and any applications they need, said Hollison.

“From my tablet, from my laptop, I can access the virtualization environment and get a virtual desktop that is a contained space that allows me to access all the business resources that are necessary, without actually being inside the network,” said James McCloskey, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

The first step in implementing a BYO policy is to have a good understanding of the employee population. Employers should segment workers based on their requirements, said Hollison.

The second step is to look at the usage profile.

“Do you have a lot of people frequently mobile or are most employees sitting chained to the proverbial office desk working nine to five?” said Hollison. “Once you have that profile, then you can look at the type of business application or the entire desktop that you want to deliver.”

For employees using laptops or tablets, access to the entire desktop may be preferred, but access to just a few applications would be easier for those using smartphones, he said.

The third step is to determine what types of devices the organization wants to support — laptops, tablets or smartphones.

And finally, the organization needs to put a BYO policy in place, either a stringent, formal corporate policy or a looser, more informal agreement, said Hollison.

The policy should outline whether a stipend or subsidy will be provided for the cost of the device. Forty-four per cent of organizations surveyed intend to pay employees a stipend roughly equivalent to the cost of the IT department procuring and managing a comparable device. Thirty-one per cent plan to help offset some of the cost.

At information technology consulting firm IT Weapons in Brampton, Ont., all employees receive a $500 subsidy every two years for the computing device of their choice — starting after their first year of service, said Jeremy MacBean, director of business development.

“They’re encouraged to pick a device they like that works for them that they can keep with them,” he said. “Our technical guys need to be mobile, they need access to all their goodies so they like having one device they can customize. It’s about integrating home computing with work computing.”

BYO offers many benefits to employers, including improved employee satisfaction, according to 57 per cent of survey respondents. With the changing demographics, there are increasingly high expectations for the computing environment and gen-Y employees are not going to accept or be satisfied with outdated models, said Hollison.

Another benefit is increased productivity, according to 52 per cent of survey respondents.

“People work more when they’re happy with the things they’re working on,” said MacBean. “People love the freedom to go seamlessly from the office at work to catch up on emails in front of the TV at home in the evening, and it’s all on one device so they don’t have to worry about anything.”

Greater worker mobility is another benefit of BYO, cited by 51 per cent of survey respondents, as it allows for greater geographic flexibility, said McCloskey. And more flexible work environments is another benefit, according to 46 per cent of respondents.

“The advantage of that is the business has a passionate knowledge worker that has a device of their own that is always connectable to systems and, oftentimes, they’ll find themselves connecting more regularly — picking up emails in the evening or responding to customer service requests after hours,” said McCloskey.

Initially, security is a common concern with BYO but with desktop virtualization, there are “almost no security concerns,” said Hollison. IT is able to centrally manage and secure the desktops, applications and data in the data centre so the information is secure.

“We have very strict guidelines about performance and security, like anti-virus protection so, for us, all hardware has to meet the security requirements,” said MacBean.

Employees should be encouraged to purchase extended warranties for their devices for at least three years and all devices should have anti-virus software — for which 66 per cent of survey respondents said they would cover the cost, said Hollison.

Another potential concern is the device will be used for pleasure when it’s time for business. However, employers can monitor how much corporate time is spent on the device, he said.

“The practical reality is it’s happening anyway and companies are starting to recognize they can’t stem the tide and prohibit people from using devices for work and play,” said Hollison. “The trick is how you keep them isolated rather than trying to prohibit the play.”

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