BYOD has caught the fancy of most organisations. But according to reports, the percentage of organisations that have deployed a BYOD policy or related solutions disturbingly are far lower than it should be even today. As the lines between personal and professional lives blur by the day, enterprises believe beyond its advantages, there exists another side of BYOD.
It might enable employees to evolve into a mobile workforce, but one of the concerns that arise is the security of corporate data. The debate about BYOD is not new but how channel partners can optimise this space innovatively could be.
A recently released Gartner study ‘Bring Your Own Device: The Facts and the Future’ says that 50 percent of businesses will require employees to supply their own computing devices by 2017. That could extend beyond the smartphone and tablet arenas to include laptops and even desktop computers.
“This will clearly have a major impact on the environment that made the channel so important—delivering more value to corporate customers that otherwise wouldn’t find it elsewhere. But VARs should realise that BYOD isn’t nearly the threat that it was once believed to be. Sure, it’ll be harder to sell hardware in the enterprise, but BYOD is a shift in how the channel operates, not a decline in need for companies that can add value to corporate customer technology infrastructure. The hardest part about BYOD, in fact, is finding the value for the channel, but close inspection reveals all kinds of value,” says Khalid Laban, CEO, Oxygen.
In a relatively short time, BYOD is already impacting the regional channel business. According to Nasser El Abdouli, Channel Sales Manager, Middle East, F5, channel partners who are not stepping up to offer guidance and concrete solutions are already starting to miss out on both profit and innovation. With the region emerging as one of the most tech-enabled markets, this is particularly true in the Middle East. He says. “According to Cisco’s recent Middle East ICT Security Study, almost half of all employees in the Middle East and Africa region already bring at least one unsecured device to work. Worryingly, only 55 percent of companies claimed to have a BYOD plan in place.”
There is no doubt that much work remains to be done. “While there are big challenges ahead, there are also tremendous opportunities to make game-changing differences. The channel will, and indeed has to, play a big role in driving education and best practice here,” he says.
The channel’s role is clear – offer consultancy services and educate customers on the demand for BYOD solutions. But while this might be a known factor, how do channel players go about implementing this accurately? First point to consider and understand is that there is no universal approach. The responsibility lies with the channel partners to understand the unique demands and needs of a particular customer and accordingly present an appropriate solution.
El Abdouli says partners need to evaluate what types of device are being using? How is the information being accessed and from where? What type of data are the customers accessing remotely? “Once partners understand the scale of the problem, they can map out a solution ensuring the right levels of authentication to protect the network and unlock the best possible end-user experience,” he adds.
Fadi Moubarak, Channel and Midmarket Director, MEA and Turkey, Avaya, says, there is a lot of education to be done. “We are bringing the world of the uncontrollable that is the personal world into a very controlled environment, which is the enterprise environment. Vendors will provide technologies but there is also the operational aspect, which presents immense opportunities for the channel.”
“Partners can differentiate themselves by either taking existing business applications to push them to BYOD or adding complimentary applications as is in the case of retail or healthcare,” he adds.
According to Laban, the BYOD trend is not only unstoppable but is set to transform the hardware landscape in the enterprise world permanently. He explains, “On the face of it, the BYOD pain points for customers such as hardware choices, security and management, are in fact a list of opportunities for resellers, as BYOD should be treated as a subset of a broader mobility strategy in an organisation. Any VAR working within the network space, particularly, needs to seriously look at it as an opportunity that must be supported. What is key for channel partners is to help their customers look at BYOD from the outlook of the entire technology ecosystem.”
This means looking at it from the Mobile Device Management (MDM) point of view as well. Helping customers see the larger picture will make it easier in the long run. But at the end of the day, channel players acknowledge that the biggest challenge that exists with BYOD is the security aspect.
Most channel players agree that the only way to circumvent the threat of security is by presenting the impacts of a holistic BYOD strategy.
Agreeing that security is certainly a big issue with enterprise BYOD, however it’s not the only challenge, points out Ahmad Elkhatib, Managing Partner, Shifra. “Managing workers’ mobile devices is a complex problem to tackle as well. The partners are fully aware that there is no one point solution that can be provisioned to address the issue. The challenges of BYOD reflect the need for partners to view the mobility challenges of the organisation.”
Apart from this, Moubarak from Avaya also adds that building the technical know-how is also a challenge that the partners need to overcome.
At the moment, Ralf Jordan, Executive Director, Client Solutions Emerging EMEA, Dell, says, companies rely on separate and often disjointed products which pose a number of challenges. “We have identified this gap and distinguishes itself from other players in the market by providing end-to-end solutions. Dell’s Enterprise Mobility Management solution offering IT a comprehensive management experience to configure and define security and compliance policies for iOS and Android smartphones; Windows, Android and iOS tablets; Linux, Mac and Windows laptops and desktops; as well as thin and zero cloud clients,” explains Jordan.
Also, Thomas Thoelke, Sales Director NEEMEA, Sophos, says, another big challenge for a partner is to make a customer see the value of a solution. “I believe this is the main challenge for a partner, and they will only be able to overcome it by showing the impacts of the BYOD strategy on customer’s security. There are some different routes to this depending on how big a picture a partner is able to draw. This can go from setting overall security strategies, policies on BYOD down to showing specific solutions or features of a product to the customer,” he says.
Some other challenges that organisations face are theft of mobile devices and loss of data caused due to it. From a partner perspective, Niraj Mathur, Security Practice Manager, GBM, says, the company has solutions to deal with these issues. “We have solutions that have helped the organisation develop mobile applications a lot quicker, faster and securely. We have a testing team that tests the mobile applications. We also have solutions that can identify which solutions are connecting to the network and whether it is patched or not or running a software that is not permitted. We have the entire stack of solutions which can help an organisation right from the first step to the last one in the entire cycle,” he says. He also adds that understanding the problem completely first is an integral step for partners.
The future of channel partners in this space is bright, provided they work closely with their customers and gain an understanding of their present situation and where they are heading.
“The successful partner will leverage BYOD to provide their clients with the right technology and the right access to get the job done in a productive and efficient manner. If their customers identify any issues, such as security, then partners need to immediately address this concern and customise solutions for their BYOD business needs,” says Jordan.
Customisation is a key word here. A one-size-fit-all approach is not going to work simply because each customer has his unique requirements. Only those partners who grasp this understanding can successfully reach out to customers, going forward.
“Each partner has to differentiate himself by a unique approach by developing a sustainable enterprise strategy tailored specially to each organisation. Partners has to provide solutions tailored to each business needs,” sums up Shifra’s Elkhatib.