The use of smartphones has become almost ubiquitous, with tablets not far behind. It is estimated there are two billion smartphones already in use, and that number is set to skyrocket in the coming years.
The simple reason for this is that these devices are quite brilliant. They adapt to the routines and activities in your life, making it difficult to imagine a time when you didn’t have one.
They also adapt to the routines and activities of your work life and, as such, employees are keen to use these devices at work.
Fantastic, you might say. The device the employee is working on is no extra expense to the company, and they are happier, more productive and working longer. However, it is, unfortunately, not as simple as that.
In a time when data is the most valuable asset to an organisation, the old computers may not be as fancy as a shiny new iPad, but they are tightly set up to the company network and suitably secure. When an employee is trying to access company data with a device that is not supported by the network, the same cannot be said. Subsequently, the network is suddenly vulnerable to all kinds of security threats.
So a CIO has two choices. They either ban employees from accessing work data on personal devices, or they embrace the trend and reap the rewards by setting up the network to support BYOD.
According to IBM, the second option should be taken by any enterprise looking to progress into the age of mobility.
“The age of mobility requires optimised networks – networks that support both employee devices and employees’ need to work any time, from anywhere, with anyone,” says Ahmed Marouf, Global Technology Services Leader, IBM Middle East, Saudi and Levant.
“Three key elements of any intelligent mobile collaboration or BYOD solution are the mobile devices themselves, mobile applications, and the network that underpins them both. With so much emphasis placed on mobile devices and applications, IBM has found that the role of the network and its capabilities often becomes a secondary or tertiary concern. In IBM’s view, this can be a mistake.”
However, while BYOD has seen a wider adoption in mature countries with more sophisticated infrastructures, the Middle East is slightly behind, says Vishal Tripathi, Principal Research Analyst, Gartner.
“Developing countries have not seen very high adoption for the simple reason that not as many people buy these devices and infrastructures are not as sophisticated, so they are therefore not as willing to invest. The Middle East is somewhere in between these two. People are buying these devices – that’s not an issue – because they like the swanky stuff over there, but some of the infrastructures are not as sophisticated.”
While the adoption numbers might not be as high as other regions, there is no doubt it is a networking project high on the agenda of the Middle East’s CIOs.
Samer Ismair, MENA Systems Engineer, Brocade Communications, says it is vital.
“Today’s enterprise, education and healthcare campus networks must provide anytime, anywhere mobile BYOD access and scale to meet rising user expectations. These networks are also expected to deliver services thought impossible just a few years ago,” he says. “More than ever, campus networks need to quickly and efficiently evolve with the ever-changing environment.”
To support the network accordingly, organisations need to have a robust and scalable infrastructure, says Sowri S. Krishnan, VP, Mobility, Cognizant.
“Additionally, they require support staff, especially IT expertise, to acquire the appropriate skills to manage this new environment and infrastructure. A platform and OS-agnostic BYOD infrastructure will provide controls to limit security breaches, as well as minimise organisational support and management of employee-owned devices,” he says.
“By deploying the right combination of MDM (mobile device management), MAM (mobile application management) and MADP (mobile application development platform) solutions, organisations can securely and quickly update business apps on employee devices, as well as perform compliance reporting.”
The costs involved in setting up a BYOD-supported network can vary depending on whether the organisation already has a pervasive wireless network in place.
Most companies that are embracing BYOD will deploy a solution that provides device detection, profiling of the device and self-registration of the device and user onto the network, says Chris Kozup, Senior Director, EMEA Marketing, Aruba Networks.
“This takes the responsibility for device onboarding away from the IT department by automating the process. An average enterprise should be able to handle BYOD with an investment of around $10,000.”
Mathivanan Venkatachalam, Director of Product Management, ManageEngine, adds that organisations should invest on both LAN and WAN bandwidth, NAC (which performs with antivirus to perform the necessary checks), and an MDM solution to enforce policies and manage the BYOD.
In the short term, organisations will inevitably need to invest time into the process of integration and budget to acquire the ICT infrastructure needed to support the new BYOD trend, according to Asfar Zaidi, Principal Consultant, Huawei Enterprise ME. “Moreover, the training of both the end user and system administrators will be a requirement,” he adds.
Farhan Mirza, Principal, A.T. Kearney ME, says the investment tends to be client and market specific. “As well as the greater bandwidth provision costs, there’s also the upskilling and scaling of support personnel and network engineers, plus spend on applications to support things like performance monitoring and security tools,” he says.
Venkat Raghavan, General Manager, Al Futtaim Technologies, adds: “The initial investments are unlikely to be high, but there is a recurring cost in maintaining the licenses for the MDM applications. However, these costs are likely to get more than offset by the savings in the cost of provision of the device hardware itself.”
There are further considerations to take in terms of analysising ROI. Some of them, including technology investment or consultancy services, are easily measurable. Others are not, explains Vittorio Brini, Regional Technical Consultants Manager, GBM.
“Things like user satisfaction, additional cost in IT support (in case the customer decides to provide IT help desk services for the BYOD users) or the user providing the device can only be measured when a clear BYOD strategy is in place,” he says.
Three years ago, Citrix launched its internal bring-your-own (BYO) programme, which has already achieved its anticipated 20 percent cost saving.
However, Noman Qadir, Regional Director, MENA and Turkey, Citrix, says ROI is not the main driver for a BYOD programme.
“BYOD simplifies IT and reduces the costs and time spent on procuring devices and configuring them, working through app compatibility, and responding to a cascade of service requests. It allows IT teams to focus on more strategic imperatives,” he says. “All these intrinsic benefits cannot be translated into a ROI but can be seen in a reduction in the labour turnover as BYOD helps in making employees feel like an asset to the company.”