Smartphones, tablets given lukewarm welcome

Written by Diksha Dutta | Diksha Dutta | Updated: Jun 4 2012, 09:11am hrs
Indian businesses are not comfortable with employees bringing their own mobile devices to the office. Concerns around data security and privacy still remain high

Mobile devices are exponentially finding their way into Indian businesses. As high as 90% of the employees use devices such as laptops or smartphones given by their organisation for personal use as well. But when it comes to employees using their personal devices for professional emailscompanies are not that cooperative. Or to put in technical terms, they do not encourage the concept of bring your own device (BYOD). Recent times have seen Indian companies adopting this trend, but only at the senior level. However, the good news is that 86% of the Indian companies already do, or will have BYOD policy in the next 24 months. Moreover, clearly 38% feel that they have such a policy in place, according to a recent survey by British Telecom (BT).

BPO major EXL Service launched the BYOD policy for its employees early this year and it is being released in a phased manner. Currently it is in the first stage and has been rolled out to senior personnel in EXL in India. In the subsequent phases, it will be extended to include employees across the entire organisation. In EXLs corporate and business offices in the US and UK, there are no restrictions and people have the option of bringing their own device at work. Similar is the case with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), which confirmed that they are seriously looking at adopting BYOD in the organisation in the near future.

The trend is certainly picking up because 93% of the Indian companies think that adopting a BYOD policy will help in a competitive advantage over those that have not yet done so. Shantanu Ghosh, vice-president and managing director, India product operations, Symantec feels, There has been an upswing in BYOD adoption and also in the security concerns in the last five years. The advantage security departments of companies had ten years back was that they could control the devices and software their employees are accessing in the office. But such will not be the case after BYOD. This has advantages and disadvantages both.

He recalls that it all started with the fact that iPods and thumb drives could be used for enormous storage and employees started bringing it to work. Now the trend has reached to smartphones and iPads. Today you can do everything on the smartphone or iPad which can be done on the computer. But when it comes to safety, case is not the same. It is easier to lose a smartphone, than a laptop.

But why do companies shy away from adopting BYOD Reasons are many74% of the IT decision makers feel that security issues like malware and viruses are the major concern before adopting BYOD. Another 50% feel that cost and complexity of setting up for multiple devices is a worrisome task.

The other concerns include potential threat to the companys IP and increased data usage or mobile expenditure. However from an employees perspective, 42% of employees using their own device for work believe they are more efficient and productive. Ghosh from Symantec mentions that in some cases, BYOD also helps in cost cutting of a company. Surprisingly, India is not far behind in the global BYOD adoption race. On a global level, 60% of employees say their companies permit them to connect personally-owned devices to the corporate network and use them for workthis drops to 37% in the UK, but increases to 80% in India and 92% in China. In the larger picture, 46% of employees worldwide who currently cannot, would like to be able to use their personal devices for work. While company sanctioned BYOD adoption is generally high, the level of use stated by employees is higher than IT decision-makers acknowledge.

Arun Shetty, head, Avaya Aura sales and consulting, Avaya India says, Among the Fortune 100 companies, 80% of them feel that they should deploy iPads in the organisation, but 74% of the CIOs think that BYOD is a business risk. Moreover, 50% of the people who have tablets are bringing it to office. He further explains that there is definitely an investment involved in BYOD, but it also increases the productivity of employees from five fold to upto ten-fold. Companies often approach us when they want their employees to have common user experience across all devices that they bring to the office, he adds.

Though everybody is optimistic about the future adoption of BYOD, security concerns are justified. BT research shows that four out of ten companies have experienced security breaches due to people bringing in unauthorised devices. Interestingly, the board and senior management are the second largest group of people demanding BYOD, just behind IT people and power users.

As most Indian companies are offering BYOD to senior officials, it is mandatory for them not to misuse it and set an example for the employees at the bottom of the pyramid.