I think I should qualify that statement before I get shouted down. The consumerisation of IT is well underway, there’s no denying that. Workers want a say in what devices they use to do their job and IT security boundaries are therefore constantly shifting.
Senior executives have also put pressure on IT to deliver more flexible connectivity solutions for smart devices and all this has initiated a huge change of approach for IT departments. On the whole, it is change that is being accepted, but with the ever-growing smart device market, how do IT departments truly embrace a ‘BYOD’ strategy?
My point is; they can’t. I don’t mean that we will return to the days of IT departments solely issuing devices and the users just having to lump it, I just mean that it will be nigh-on impossible for an IT department to properly support any smart device. What is clear however, is that regardless of supporting employee or corporate-liable devices, businesses need to implement a Mobile Device Management (MDM) service.
When IT does turn its attention to MDM there are two main schools of thought when considering the best method, the ‘walled garden’ or ‘containerised’ approach. The latter locks email and some other functions within an app. This is an easy sale to enterprises initially but this severely limits the user experience and is ultimately unsustainable.
Any user accessing systems remotely wants their email there and then, and they don’t want the additional and unnecessary hassle of opening an extra app to do so that doesn’t integrate with any of the other features of the device.
The ‘platform’ or ‘native’ approach on the other hand, exploits the OS vendors’ MDM APIs to preserve the user experience and to make the device in question extensible and multi-purpose. This is the approach I believe is relevant in today’s world and one I feel will see most enterprise take-up. That’s certainly the case with the dozens of such implementations I have carried out over the past 18 months.
But whether it’s smartphones, laptops, netbooks or tablets, the idea of BYOD is simply not sustainable. There are so many different devices that run Android for example, that supporting all of them is unrealistic. I haven’t seen any organisations pro-actively offering Android devices to its users – it is mostly iPads and iPhones, with Blackberry grimly hanging on.
What will happen instead is that businesses will implement a ‘Choose Your Own Device’ (CYOD) policy. Workers will be offered a selection of perhaps two or three OS/device combinations that have been ‘pre-approved’ to connect to the corporate network. This offers enough flexibility for workers, allows the IT department to do their support job effectively and means that business can use mobility to gain a competitive advantage.
It’s a little like company car policies. Recipients don’t get to choose any car from the thousands of different models out there; they get to make a choice from a smaller selection. The only question then is, will Apple’s forecourt be a close enough walk from the Blackberry breakers yard?!