The Consumerization of Technology

As smartphones become ever more engrained in everyday life, their power and flexibility is leading to an increasing desire on the part of consumers to employ their own devices for business as well as personal use.  Individual affinity for specific carriers, operating systems, and handset OEMs is increasingly trumping the more traditional controls that have historically been imposed by corporate IT departments. Employees are more likely to use their device frequently if they enjoy it and find it easy to use. The desire to foster a culture that is cognizant of an employee’s preference for a particular device has led to a policy shift for many companies as they change how they securely manage their employees’ devices. This trend in business device usage is changing the channels, the marketing, and the point of sale. Businesses are no longer the place where people are introduced to technology, and it is essential that the industry make the necessary changes to address this shift.

As younger generations enter the workplace, employers are faced with employees who may have used the same type of phone for more than five years. Convincing an avid user of one mobile OS that they have to switch to one approved by the company becomes a battle.  The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement supports the notion that the proliferation of devices has reached an inflection point in the workplace and trying to “swim upstream” against this is counterproductive and a waste of scarce resources.  Competition for talent is leading many organizations to explore additional ways of making themselves employers of choice, and offering employees the ability to choose their own device is one of these employee benefits.

A telling sign of the shift to personal devices exists with the recent notice from the General Services Administration that they would be tasked with creating a “government-wide mobile-device management platform designed to work across operating systems[1].” The intent behind this program is to allow employees the ability to use their personal devices to access work email and information, an activity that used to only be available on a government-issued phone. BYOD is not limited to corporations and government entities. Signaling the support within education in Indianapolis, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School has adopted their own BYOD program.

The simple expedient of the bottom line might seem to be an obvious mark on the “pro” side of the ledger for BYOD proponents.  If an organization no longer has to purchase devices for their employees, they should naturally realize that historical outlay as a savings going forward.  However, one major company – IBM – has found that this isn’t necessarily the case[2]. With restrictions lifted from the types of phones and tablets employees could use for work, suddenly a number of insecure apps now had access to the company network. By no longer purchasing and managing phones, IT now has to manage multiple operating systems and develop guidelines for the types of apps that employees are allowed to access.

While it may seem that many companies are moving towards a device-agnostic approach, there are some details that must be addressed before foregoing the company-provided devices. By allowing employees their own devices, IT departments lose much of the control over the IT hardware and how individuals use the device. Device security becomes a major issue[3] when considering data compliance mandates such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, or GLBA.  These rules must be followed even if the data is on an employee-owned device.  The development of clearly defined policy and company-mandated security tools is a must for a successful and secure BYOD program.

Developing a program of this nature is a decision that needs to be made by each individual company with their particular needs at the forefront of the consideration set.  While it isn’t a “one size fits all” program, recent surveys have shown that more than half of the largest companies are offering BYOD programs[4]. This shift in company policies created a whole new market focusing solely on “mobile-device management” with programs and tools aimed at keeping data and network access secure.

BYOD is culturally inevitable, and BrightPoint is preparing for this to become the norm for device usage. We are working with customer and vendor partners in the creation of software solutions designed for businesses as well as device management programs designed to monitor devices across different platforms and from different OEMs. Additionally, through a partnership with ProtectCell, we are providing data and identity security solutions. Retail has always been an important channel for mobile phones and wireless devices; however, as the individual becomes the target for both personal and business marketing, the retail experience becomes an essential part of the purchase decision. We are working to create solutions for our customers to better address the needs of their customers. An important component of BrightPoint’s success is anticipating trends in the wireless industry and proactively developing capabilities to respond to those trends. Brightpoint has created the business models that will support our customers and suppliers as they meet the opportunities and challenges resulting from BYOD programs.