Small businesses could build better BYOD programs


describe the imageThe growing prevalence of mobile technology has placed new demands on business decision makers as they deal with trends such as bring your own device. The enterprise mobility conversation is often focused on security, with questions regarding data protection becoming more difficult to answer in a highly diverse technology ecosystem. This complexity is perhaps even more of an issue in small-business environments due to limited financial and human resources available to address the issues that may arise.

Despite the apparent challenges, a report from the SMB Group found avid interest in mobile technology among smaller companies. This is largely due to the fact that smartphone and tablet adoption is at an all time high, with mobile Internet traffic expected to surpass that of desktops within the next three to four years. This prevalence has made mobile technology a prominent concern among SMB decision makers. As SMB Group's Sanjeev Aggarwal noted in a blog post, 67 percent of survey respondents said that mobile solutions are essential. 

The increasing sophistication of mobile applications is one area that has contributed to accelerated adoption. Aggarwal noted, for instance, that SMB software purchasing for customer relationship management, order processing and expense management tools has increased 20 percent since last year. Further complicating the SMB technology scene is the rise of BYOD, with 62 percent of respondents allowing personal devices in the workplace.

Considerations beyond security
The introduction of new mobile solutions in a business environment can increase productivity and revenue, but it also presents challenges. As Aggarwal noted, security remains a top concern, with many SMBs looking for solutions to streamline application and upgrade deployment, monitor bandwidth usage and authenticate users to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive company data. However, is is important see mobility from more than an IT security perspective and form a more comprehensive IT strategy around these solutions. 

In fact, an over-emphasis on security may actually take focus away from other core issues or limit the value that BYOD can provide. Drawing on research from the Ponemon Institute, CSO magazine recently noted that many organizations (close to 75 percent of respondents) adopt highly restrictive policies. These types of restrictions include requiring approval before a new devices can be connected to the network or only allowing a limited selection of smartphones and tablets. This may ease the IT department's management burden, but it also reduces the potential for productivity and employee morale gains. Part of the issue is that limited resources make it more difficult to protect a highly diverse IT ecosystem.

"Today, most SMBs are performing mobile management tasks themselves, with internal resources," Aggarwal wrote. "However, given that many lack adequate IT resources and mobile expertise, we expect that SMBs will increasingly turn to external solutions providers to get the management job done - particularly as they increase their business reliance on mobile, and requirements for security, integration with traditional business applications grow."

The shift to managed IT services may be particularly beneficial for successfully crafting and executing a mobility strategy, due to the large number of factors that can affect the return of such solutions. Issues such as the increased load on the network can be particularly troublesome if not planned for accordingly, while the numerous devices and programs available can make vendor and hardware selection a complex process.

Workspace virtualization: A potential solution
The other concern many business leaders have is that blending the personal and professional lives of employees may make it more difficult to focus on critical tasks. After all, how tempting would it be to take a few too many breaks if the same device with access to the company's content management system also stored the latest release of Candy Crush Saga?

However, those concerns may be unjustified. Giving employees tools that they are familiar with may outweigh letting them use distraction-ridden hardware. Business News Daily recently highlighted a Staples Advantage survey of employees and managers - 54 percent of the latter said adopting BYOD improved productivity.

"We're seeing a trend in the right direction, with 70 percent of workers and managers saying they're more productive now than five years ago," said Tom Heisroth, senior vice president for Staples Advantage. "Providing employees with the right tools and resources is essential to improving office-wide productivity."

In addition to creating policies to better manage BYOD, it's important that business leaders take the time to communicate their requirements clearly to employees. For example, when considering remote data wiping functionality, it should be made clear that losing a device used for work may result in all data being erased to prevent sensitive information from being compromised. Similar provisions may be necessary in regard to the use of anti-malware software and the type of productivity apps that employees are allowed to leverage.

Does your IT strategy include mobile - if not, it should. Learn more about how to optimize your IT plans for the future: