Column: The positive experience driving BYOD

Opinion

Column: The positive experience driving BYOD

BYOD is a very hot topic right now. Why shouldn't it be? After all, what company is going to turn down the chance of encouraging and supporting employees to buy their own devices for work rather than having to buy them itself? And so many things are conspiring to help BYOD become more acceptable to employers, writes Billy MacInnes.

You see them in surveys highlighting the benefits of BYOD such as the Citrix survey last summer which found the primary drivers for BYOD were attracting and retaining talent, boosting worker productivity and mobility, improving employee satisfaction and reducing IT costs.

It's also down to the nature of the devices themselves. When people talked in the past about BYOD and consumerisation, they were usually talking about laptops, often MacBook Pros owned by company managers, so the conversation was limited because it was confined to an elite tier within the organisation. The earlier incarnation of consumerisation also tended to focus on hardware that was based on the PC/laptop form factor. As such, it was less likely to have much resonance with employees who, generally, were quite happy to make a distinction between their work PC/laptop and their home machine.

The arrival of smartphones like the iPhone and its Android-based competitors and the advent of the iPad and other tablets has helped to democratise the whole issue of BYOD, extending it to the point where it really is about consumerisation rather than people at the top looking to have something different from everyone else.

It also expanded the scope of BYOD beyond the traditional PC/laptop domain to a wider sphere of mobile devices with computing capabilities and to products that people typically bought and used themselves far more broadly than they would their personal PC or laptop. It hasn't taken long to realise that these personal smartphones and tablets have the capability to be used for work-based tasks and to access business applications.

One thing that tends to get overlooked by companies that raise security and management concerns over the use of personal tablets and smartphones in a business context is not only that a virtualised delivery mechanism, for example, can be very secure and well managed but that it can be a lot easier to deliver virtualised applications to these types of devices than to laptops/PCs.

Why? Because companies are able to create an application or application experience that does not have to be constrained by the look, feel and limitations of work-based PC/laptop software. Also, it's easier to provide centralised virtualised applications in a distributed fashion to mobile devices than to try and re-engineer deskbound PC-based software into a distributed, mobile application in a virtualised environment.

The same goes for cloud. The nature of smartphones and tablets, the experience they deliver and the expectations users have of them, are significantly different than for PCs or laptops. As a result, especially in a mobile context, they are better suited to a cloud computing or virtualised environment than PCs or laptops. As a new alternative to businesses for delivering mobile applications, they could also help save companies having to pump resources and effort into a PC infrastructure that isn't suited to them. Instead, they can concentrate on the application and its delivery to platforms that are truly mobile. The fact that many employees are buying that platform themselves is icing on the cake.

This was first published in February 2012

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