BYOD, Mobile Workers and Virtual Offices Cause Headaches

There’s no stopping the proliferation of virtual offices. Who hasn’t seen iPads in the hands of executives you meet, or workers in the field during normal working hours? Mobile devices, especially tablets, are progressively replacing notebook computers as the primary tool to access business information. The enthusiasm over having one of these lightweight devices at work is escalating. A recent Cisco study revealed that employees who do not have tablets issued by the company tend to bring their own. This idea contributes to the rise of virtual “officing” and mobile workers—which are abundantly driving IT enterprise trends wild.

Mobile Workers and BYOD

Smartphones and tablets, in so many gainful ways, have altered the course of professional settings.  Gone are the days when secretaries need to keep track of the boss’ schedule and meetings for the day, thanks to mobile devices.  Paperless and speedier approval processes are now in place.  Accessing files and office emails anywhere, anytime is now possible without having to carry bulky laptops.  For these reasons and more, mobility played a huge role in promoting efficiency at work, all the while boosting performance, and now devices and people have become inseparable.

But the BYOD set-up and mobile workers trends present benefits and challenges alike. Another Cisco research presented IT managers’ insights on this growing phase of technology inside the work arena.

Tom Puorro, director of product management at Cisco, feels that smartphones and tablets are poised to dominate this year and how will this overarching scenario affects the enterprise:

“Mobile workers and virtual workspaces are here to stay—but so are the demands on IT to continue to ensure enterprise-grade security, manageability and interoperability. 2012 promises to be an exciting year and IT leaders are a critical component in unleashing innovation and enabling organizations to take advantage of the next wave of business growth and opportunity. Cisco is keenly focused on helping its customers navigate the post-PC era and transform their business.”

Large organizations have engaged in this BYOD arrangement. IBM is one of the first few companies that adapted a system with an open approach, and prepared their security arsenals to address issues that may crop up.

SAP Labs in Israel will pilot BYOD technology with Cellrox to hopefully allow secured co-existence of personal and corporate environments on employees’ mobile devices.

Aside from the usual person-gadget attachment, social media and various internet activities are prompting employees to bring their own mobile devices in the office. Personal and professional boundaries are blurring nowadays.

Tablets Over Smartphones

Another revelation enclosed in the recent Cisco report says a lot about how enterprises want tablets more than smartphones.  In an attempt to quantify market patterns, the global IT survey unveiled an average of one tablet request for every three smartphones. Clearly, the popularity of the iPad as a business tool is ascending.

Furthermore, the worldwide corporate favorite Blackberry has met a fatal hurdle in 2011 that led many experts to believe that this could be the signal of the downfall of the RIM regime. The Blackberry outage has been linked to backups system failures and has left millions of users around the world disappointed.

One of the global leaders in providing office communication solutions, Avaya, is taking advantage of the iPad’s growing presence in the workplace. The Avaya Flare Communicator iPad App will support Avaya’s software for unified communications, and will feature visual directory contacts, VoIP calling, email and instant messaging. Video is not supported in this app, and this isn’t anything like the Cisco Cius that you can bring anywhere outside the office. Its main purpose is to serve as a mobile controller for voice and video conferences side-by-side with phones.

In an interview, Lawrence Byrd, the company’s director for collaboration solutions shares his excitement over this development, saying, “this is meant to be much more of a mobile, roaming, wireless remote office that you can set up in an instant.”

IT Pain Points

While global adoption of BYOD hasn’t been fully accepted, several enterprises have been practicing this inevitably.  A recent report mentioned that many companies are already allowing unapproved devices to be utilized within the offices. The desire of using own/personal computers, smartphones and tablets at work is increasing. But, here’s the catch: IT teams spend so much time dealing with BYOD issues, predominantly security, they leave more lucrative IT projects behind, unfinished.

It is easy to see and sanction the fact that employees are frequently visiting non work-related websites. And this does not include personal mobile devices brought inside the office. The idea of trying to stipulate exactly what devices people use and how they use them is an impossibility at this point.

The snag rests in the shoulders of the internal IT security facilities: is strong enough to guarantee that no company information leaves the office virtual boundaries as a result of allowing mobile devices at work?  Safekeeping confidential data issues will only grow as gadgets become more accessible and accepted in the workplace.