Go on, buy your workers a smartphone. You know it makes sense

A matter of choice

Choose your own device (CYOD), the latest incarnation of mobility device management, is being promoted as a smarter alternative to BYOD (bring your own device), with more benefits for everybody and fewer pitfalls.

How is CYOD defined in the real world and what are the advantages and challenges for business owners, IT teams and end users? Who is driving demand and how readily is CYOD being adopted?

Analyst IDC predicts the global market for enterprise mobility will exceed $174bn by 2017. It is already big business for Microsoft, which has natural CYOD synergies after its purchase of Nokia and its ongoing grab for the cloud through Azure Active Directory.

Microsoft believes that the trend towards CYOD, unleashing a growing diversity of devices that can be used to access corporate assets, presents an opportunity to increase productivity and work satisfaction.

"Organisations are in search of a simple and consistent way to enable users to be productive on the devices they love, while ensuring their corporate assets are secure and protected,” says Brad Anderson, Microsoft corporate vice president enterprise client and mobility.

So what separates CYOD policies from the BYOD that developed organically during the smart-device boom?

Curt Cornum, vice president solutions at managed-service provider Insight, defines the market. “CYOD provides users with choice in their environment through company-owned or company-liable devices,” he says.

"BYOD involves employee-owned devices with which they can walk into the building and access applications and other resources."

Device manufacturers look at it differently. HP argues that BYOD focuses on content consumption rather than creation, and that employees using tablets as their main device may become frustrated by a lack of productivity in the longer term.

“Businesses are struggling to balance the aspirational needs of users with the needs of corporate IT, which is heavily dependent on manageability, security and maintainability,” says a company spokesperson.

“CYOD and COPE [corporate-operated devices with a personal experience] each address the needs of users without sacrificing the responsibility of IT or exposing the business to risk.”

It's personal

What is so appealing about letting employees use their own choice of smart devices?

“The pressure is on businesses to provide a sexier consumer experience rather than restrictive corporate devices,” says Sian John, EMEA chief strategist for Symantec.

Formal CYOD policies identify applications that people really want and that give the business competitive advantage. People need secure access to their corporate documents, spreadsheets and presentations across all devices, not just their laptops so they can share data while mobile without connectivity issues and without compromising corporate security.

“CYOD serves as a bridge from the old world of file servers and desktops to the new world of universal smart-device access,” says Anders Lofgren, vice president of product management at virtual-data specialist Acronis.

“CYOD makes for faster and more informed decisions. Some customers of ours at a dinner in Mexico City needed information from their server to prove a point.

"If they had used their laptops and waited to boot up, negotiate VPN connections and search servers the moment was lost. But they used Acronis Access on their tablets to open the documents they needed in seconds.”

The bottom line is that corporate data must remain safe. BYOD holds many attractions, including slashed procurement costs, but the complexity of managing employee-owned devices increases security risks.

CYOD brings benefits for three distinct groups. The business can offer finite product lists that allow competitive technology procurement in volume, while knowing that employees are equipped with devices that meet compliance standards.

IT teams can stop trying to herd myriad employee-owned devices and instead provide managed access to a known population of tested and approved kit.

And end-users get to use devices that deliver the consumer experience they crave while providing access to all the company stuff they need.

The pitfalls

Organic BYOD has been criticised for exposing corporate data to breaches and security attacks. CYOD policies are sometimes bashed for restricting devices to safeguard business-critical information.

For some companies the risks are worth taking but for others security is still prized more highly than employee satisfaction.

Security arguments against first-generation BYOD principles are frequently countered by claims that letting people use their own technology saves money – a convincing consideration for smaller enterprises.

But expanding the choice of CYOD devices to make users happier can cost more than many anticipate. HP highlights the costs of having to support multiple operating systems and hardware platforms, and device manufacturers could also have a problem with CYOD.

“Insight has spoken to more than 100 providers concerned that they would lose control over the buying cycle and lose their position on the supply chain, and that end-users might even go to consumer stores to buy low-grade products rather than the professional equipment manufacturers would provide,” says Cornum.

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