Tudor Aw, technology sector head at KPMG, expains why employees bringing their iPads and other devices to work is no security threat but an opportunity to innovate, cut costs and keep staff happy
The trend of staff bringing their own devices to work (BYOD) is one of the biggest challenges facing chief information officers (CIOs) today.
There are a number of reasons for the upsurge in BYOD. As consumers we are becoming increasingly tech-savvy and conscious of what equipment we use spurred on by the affordability and functionality of the devices.
This is characterised by the iPad and other tablets and also by the increasing power of the phones we use.
So we have our own hardware – but also with the advent of apps – we are using our own programmes and software. It used to be the case that the only programmes you used were Microsoft Office applications provided by your company. Now we have apps that do everything from satellite navigation, to recommendations for restaurants, to utility tools such as note takers.
I use Dragon Naturally Speaking software, for example, which uses voice recognition to type up my notes and reply to emails. It’s super-efficient and makes my life easier but it doesn’t feature on my corporate device – I bought it myself and I really didn’t mind.
IT departments come from a tradition of locking everything down in the IT ecosystem with security embedded in, everyone using the same devices and platforms. It was cost effective, straightforward and a much more effective way to put in appropriate risk procedures.
Fifteen years ago we were quite happy to be given our corporate laptops – we couldn’t afford to buy them ourselves. All we did on these was work, and then we went home and watched TV.
Now we are glued to our phones and tablets all day long, at work and at home, and we have greater variety in affordable gear.
This wave of employees bringing their own devices and installing their own applications started with the younger generation, but now it goes all the way to the executives at the top. Now board members say: “I’d like those board papers on my tablet rather than carrying all those documents. They also want access to real time reporting of KPIs on their smartphones.”
Company IT departments have tried to resist this wave for a long time, for many good reasons, cost and security being the biggest. But they can’t stop it from happening anymore – that ship had sailed.
More forward thinking IT departments have really embraced BYOD as a potential solution: it helps the workforce to be more efficient and it keeps them happy. We get to work with the tools we want and often we are better at sniffing out useful new applications. It saves the IT department from lengthy selection processes and signing off time.
When IT departments do embrace the trend, however, they need to think about security measures. How can you protect your data?
First you need to educate people. Tell employees it is okay to use their devices but they have to apply some common sense. Most data breeches happen because of human error. Employees need to be super careful about leaving their devices lying around.
When an employee gets a new device, they need to register it with the IT department to ensure if it goes missing the data can be wiped remotely.
Companies must think about where their employees will store their data. Many of these personal devices will not have high storage.
When using services in the cloud employees need to be aware of when to use which service.
There are a whole bunch of consumer cloud applications that are temping to use as they are free and often slick. Microsoft, Google, Dropbox all provide free consumer solutions but they are often not as secure.
Using platforms like Dropbox is fine for sending public information but if you are sending sensitive M&A deal information you need to use a more secure service such as a private cloud.
Corporate cloud solutions like those from Salesforce will have industrial strength security and will be used to working with big corporate clients. Then there are private clouds, for example some of our HR systems are in the cloud but it is the KPMG private cloud.
Rather than heightening costs – BYOD could save costs. On one hand IT departments worry if you allow people to go and buy whatever they want costs will spiral, but, cost savings may also be achieved as often employees will be happy to share in the cost of a device or App, particularly if they find the consumer experience they want.
We have clearly reached a tipping point for IT departments.
And this is also a major opportunity for entrepreneurs and developers, BYOD represents a whole new opportunity to develop something quirky, with big appeal that you can not only sell to consumers but find a big take-up in the corporate world.
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