BYOD: The New Workplace Trend
Manu Bansal, Regional Manager, Partner Organization, Cisco India & SAARC
The increased adoption of both Tablets and Smartphones globally has led to the emergence of the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend, where employees are increasingly opting to use their personal devices at the workplace. Productivity at work is fast becoming location agnostic as employees are demanding increased control and convenience. Employers, as well as CIOs, recognize that the implementation of a BYOD-based IT policy can augment employee productivity and the overall happiness quotient. A recently released Cisco Connected World Technology report which was conducted in 14 countries (including India) also revealed that students and new employees in India were unanimous in their opinion that the freedom to use their device of choice and work remotely was a significant factor for evaluating job prospects.
Cisco's Visual Networking Index (VNI) Forecast suggests that the number of mobile devices in India will increase to almost 2 billion by 2016 - that's about 2 devices per individual for India! This also means that BYOD will add an additional layer of complexity to the enterprise IT market. Organizations will need to enforce a stricter framework that provides uncompromised, seamless user experience while simultaneously ensuring that there are no lapses in security and data management internally.
Evaluating the BYOD trend from a channels perspective would open up multiple opportunities for the partner community. Channel partners will be instrumental as they act as trusted advisories, guiding organizations through their BYOD journey while keeping the workplace agile, lowering costs and boosting employee productivity. The partner community will counsel them on the best way forward to build efficient networks that support multiple mobile platforms and provide service and support around them.
A comprehensive approach
With the rapid consumerization of IT, it will become imperative for organizations to work with partners who can provide a comprehensive set of solutions around security, network, collaboration etc. that support BYOD. By providing capabilities to deliver a unified security policy, uncompromising user experience, simplified operations and network management, these solutions will allow current and future employees to work at their convenience - when, where & how they choose, using a device of choice - while simultaneously allowing organizations to monitor and retain operational control.
So while vendors will equip themselves to offer these end-to-end solutions, channel partners' will predict and respond to any critical questions raised by customers regarding issues around the robustness of internet connectivity to manage an increased demand, impact on IT support, increase in traffic experienced by the customer, wireless points required, etc. BYOD will also open multiple revenue opportunities for the channel community in the areas of information management, security, wireless-network infrastructure, services and server application and it is essential for vendors to have these prerequisites as part of their portfolio so customers can get easy access to end-to-end solutions ..
The emphasis on security will be a major growth driver for most partners going forward. As critical information is increasingly passed through end point devices, the need to deploy a stronger defense measure grows stronger. Industry reports suggest that most employees frequently ignore IT policies as their desire to access the internet supersedes any apprehensions around company or individual security policies. Since most organizations do not have clearly defined policies/processes when securing the devices, the partner community plays an important role in educating them to use the right solution without settling on customer experience.
However, customers are also keen to adopt holistic solutions which focus beyond Mobile Device Management, which is the ability to enforce security policies on mobile devices and to protect the data (including remote wipe) or, among other things. This means dealing with an array of access and security measures such as UTM, firewall, networks, wireless etc. which guarantees simplicity and ease of use. In situations like these, channel partners will play an important part in recommending an inclusive approach that unifies policy, supports a better user experience and simplifies management to deliver an uncompromised user experience in any workspace.
Value to SMBs
Another major opportunity for partners would be in the SMB space. Market statistics suggest that the adoption of personal computing devices has increased by 25% annually in the segment, and managing BYOD and mobility policies will become a key challenge for SMBs. With increased globalization, SMBs too demand real time access to all applications - either through a desktop or virtual mode. While the latter turns out to be an expensive value proposition, the channel community plays an important role in providing the right alternatives in terms of security and network to facilitate cross platform access.
If employees bringing their own devices to work that's a prime opportunities for partners to help customers provision applications, roll out single sign-on, leverage cloud storage, and more. The channel helps SMBs educate their employees on BYOD adoption and use. By partnering with the leaders in the industry, solutions providers can educate employees and save SMBs resources by preventing security breaches. Additionally, SMBs partnering with an IT service company will benefit by expanding their IT department and getting additional specialized support besides getting educated about other new technologies.
Benefits and Challenges
BYOD has emerged as a powerful opportunity for the channel community and it can help them deliver an amazing value proposition while increasing their overall profitability. It also helps them deliver a holistic customer experience by:
- Providing them a highly secure, consistent experience, even as customers add more devices, technologies, and applications to the network
- Deliver a superior unified user experience with a wireless infrastructure
- Reduce time to deployment and lower costs for customers
- Develop a profitable wireless practice with the vendor's validated solution architecture
Partners can also reap the rewards of "de-risked" and simplified integration, build on their existing investments in architectures, and leverage deep partner enablement-including financing and evaluate new business opportunities.
However, the biggest challenge that channel partners will face is ensuring that customers do not miss the BYOD wave and get leapfrogged by competition. Possessing the requisite domain knowledge - right network policies, mix of solutions based on software (firewall, network access) and hardware (investment in wireless routers etc.); and educating organizations will be a critical task towards their BYOD journey. In addition, with the recent influx of solutions and vendors in the market, channel partners might face difficulty in understanding the uniqueness of solutions available and their relevance to the end customer. They might also face issues when it comes to managing relationships in the ecosystem - the link between the partners and users will supersede that between the customer and the vendor.
BYOD is the way to go
Organizations will need to work in tandem with partners to ensure a smooth transition process towards a BYOD set up. Channel partners need to help their customers deploy it effectively to increase business efficiency and remove the cost, risk, and complexity associated with mobility. They need to also act as an enabler; assist customers to build a solid BYOD policy which is driven by solutions that are scalable so that they can cash in on the trend to drive future growth. The critical success factor for partners is to make significant investments in best practices around mobility, technical and sales training and possess a solid foundation in the security. BYOD is here to stay and we can safely say that the channel ecosystem will be a significant factor in driving forward this technological revolution.