In line with recent technology forecasts, smartphone penetration has skyrocketed. Locally, statista.com has reported that the number of smartphone users in South Africa will reach 25m by 2022. In 2017, the number of smartphone users worldwide was estimated to be approximately 2.3bn — and could increase to 2.9bn by 2020. This has huge ramifications in the workplace, where employees now expect to use their own devices (known as bring your own device/BYOD) instead of company phones and desktops/laptops.
For local business owners and employers, BYOD is arguably very positive. In an embattled economy, businesses don’t necessarily have the money to standardise on top tier name-brand hardware. With regard to smartphones, this is especially relevant as many staff already have their own — and using personal devices saves their employers a great deal. Prior to BYOD, a business would have had to purchase the hardware to ensure their staff were on e-mail 24/7. Now, it’s becoming almost a given — and without any capital outlay.
In addition to the cost savings, allowing staff to use their own devices boosts morale and promotes employee satisfaction and productivity. Notably, a CITO Research report revealed that more than half (53%) of all workers polled feel they’re more productive when they have their own devices. This makes sense, because workers are familiar with their own devices and interfaces, shortening the learning curve and enhancing overall usability. A Frost & Sullivan study sponsored by Samsung captured the actual time savings related to BYOD, finding that using personal devices for work activities saves employees 58 minutes each day, providing a 34% increase in productivity. For small companies in particular, this can make a huge difference to profitability in both the short and long term.
As with any technology trend, however, there is a dark side to BYOD. It undoubtedly leaves many businesses vulnerable to data leaks, malware and theft of valuable intellectual property. You can build huge walls protecting your network from outside threats, but when someone brings a threat in, the results can be catastrophic. This is particularly risky when dealing with employees who are privy to sensitive information and who have high-level decision-making powers. Today, using platforms such as LinkedIn, it is relatively easy for hackers to identify who these individuals are within any organisation. Indeed, we could be heading for a future where high-level staff (financial directors, chief information officers, CEOs) are identified and targeted. A memory stick could be dropped in their driveway, for example, or their home Wi-Fi network could be hacked…
With the above risks in mind, it has become critical to develop and implement a comprehensive enterprise mobility strategy. The IDC estimates that by 2020, 72.3% of the global workforce will be mobile. As a result, businesses must quickly address their policies and make sure their approach is the right one — meaning that it aligns with specific industry needs, corporate policies, size, culture, budget, IT and so on.
Today, companies are exploring three main approaches:
- Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
- Choose Your Own Device (CYOD)
- Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE)
While the pros and cons of BYOD are well known, there is less research available when it comes to the latter two options.
CYOD is one of the newer approaches, and it is when companies give employees an approved set of devices from which to choose. The primary advantages of CYOD are that it can reduce hardware costs as compared to COPE. The end users are still in control of their own technology, but the support and procurement standards are more streamlined given the more homogeneous pool of device options. On the down side, users may be unhappy with their options; it does not completely eliminate hardware costs and the end users may struggle to manage repair and replacement. This can be considered the “middle of the road” of the three options.
Unsurprisingly, bigger and more established companies are more likely to adopt the COPE model, as it maximises control over mobility. Employees are given smartphones that are paid for by the company, meaning the business maintains ownership of the devices. There is some flexibility involved as well, as enterprises can still offer employees various options. It’s a favourable choice for financial institutions and healthcare providers, which have strict legal and regulatory policies with which to comply. Naturally, COPE offers organisations the most control and authority over all mobile devices — which results in lower security concerns than BYOD and CYOD. Importantly, a COPE strategy requires that the business embrace a very proactive, agile and innovative approach to keeping pace with technology.
Within the SME environment, it is likely that BYOD will dominate — which means that strict policies should be implemented. For savvy business owners, there are numerous policies available online which can be studied and used in a way that suits the organisation.
Today, an often overlooked and easy-to-implement strategy is encryption. Users do not realise how easy it is for someone to access all of the data on their phone or laptop, in the event that it’s lost or stolen — and encryption prevents this. Likewise, organisations often under-appreciate how important this data is, and how it may be treated. When in the wrong hands, e-mails, contacts, notes, pictures and more can be accessed fairly easily and this could be hugely harmful to any business. Fortunately, there are various software tools available that can enable remote wiping, as well as encryption.
With corporate cybercrime becoming a daily reality, it is essential that every business owner and manager becomes familiar with the risks associated with BYOD — and that a tailored and robust enterprise mobility strategy is implemented.
- Brian Timperley is MD and co-founder of Turrito Networks and MD of Dial-a-Nerd