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A Democracy Of Devices

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Nina Mathews is an orthopaedic surgeon working at a hospital in Bangalore. In her other life, she wanders the forests of Bannerghatta, hunting for hiking trails. When she’s out, she makes sure she carries her smartphone, which helps her keep track of her patients, thanks to an app. Her co-workers use their own phones with the custom-built app, with the developer managing all the devices. “This is an experiment in my hospital, to see if we can stay connected with our patients at all times, and 10 of us are involved in the project,” says Mathews.

The democratisation of communication technology, or bring your own device (BYOD), has helped corporates talk to consumers and boost employee efficiency. Even governments are beginning to explore it. Vijay Belwalkar, an engineer with the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation (GMMC), which is trying a BYOD pilot with 30 engineers, says, “Now, most of the time I am on site, while earlier I had to go to the office to see civic records. It wasted a lot of time.”

BYOD is on the verge of becoming a business opportunity that services and software development companies cannot afford to ignore. Mobile device management (MDM), application integration (MDAI), security, network architecture for mobiles, and virtual desktop integration (VDI) for mobiles are becoming part of the business deals made between large companies and IT service providers.

However, “the business models for BYOD have not been figured out — Will it be sold as a package or as an individual service? No one knows, but this is more than just a trend”, says V.C. Gopalratnam, CIO of Cisco India. He says that in a survey by Cisco, of 3,000 under-30s interviewed, all wanted to work with organisations that offered flexibility with devices. Cisco itself has 92,000 employee-owned devices across the world. “BYOD is a business because you need data encryption for security, networking infrastructure, and consulting to implement policies across devices,” says Sameer Padhye, vice-president of the worldwide business service provider vertical at Cisco.

While senior management is driving BYOD in India, firms such as Wipro, KPIT Cummins, Essar and Citrix have implemented BYOD as the norm. But the security risk remains. “Mobile devices and not PCs will be the biggest target for hackers. Previously, there was not enough scale for them to target these devices,” says Shantanu Ghose, MD of India product operations at Symantec. In Symantec’s recent report, firms lose an average of Rs 42 lakh a year due to loss of data as a result of device mismanagement.

A Jigsaw Puzzle
For the CIO, integrating different devices is a nightmare. “We have created a software suite which allows organisations to centralise their applications and create a pool which permits access to all mobile devices for different departments,” says Vinod Krishnan, director of sales-advanced technologies at IT services firm VMWare. Citrix is creating a product with which a CIO can manage device access without re-engineering server architecture. “Our software allows separation of personal and work data on a phone at the server level. There is zero engineering in this,” says Nilesh Goradia, India head of pre-sales at Citrix.

Research commissioned by VMWare across 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region found that the growing incidence of employees bringing their own smartphones and tablets was actually making 72 per cent of employees more productive. In India, 70 per cent of employees claimed to be happier in their roles when allowed to use a device of their choice; 66 per cent found work less stressful.

“ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems are already on the cloud and are going mobile. This is part of every business conversation with our clients,” says Ravi Chauhan, managing director, Juniper Networks, in India. 

Auto engineering company KPIT Cummins has 1,600 people bringing in their own devices. “This BYOD trend was led by top management used to working on tablets to make work easier,” says Mandar Marulkar, AVP and IT head at KPIT Cummins. He says he had to define new security policies for which he categorised users as those who could use their own devices outside the organisation and those who could not. “Managing security is important. It took us 18 months to do this. Only 35 per cent of the 1,600 users can access applications within the organisation on any device,” says Marulkar.

The BYOD explosion has got start-ups making enterprise apps work with cloud-based mobility structures. Anunta, a start-up from Pune, is helping organisations move desktop clusters to the cloud. “BYOD is so far spoken of at the human resources level, but for an organisation, it is important that there be proper integration with all the software tools available in the market,” says Vrinda Walavalkar, head of global marketing at Anunta.

In companies such as Evalueserve, a KPO with 2,500 employees, no BYOD is allowed for employees who manage clients. “BYOD is available to our senior sales and corporate management; they can access only internal applications of the company through a tablet and there is no access at all to client data,” says Sachin Jain, AVP of IT at Evalueserve. He says that in a BPO environment, clients have service-level agreements that do not allow employees of a service provider to bring in any smartphone. These agreements are important to prevent security breaches.

An E&Y report on data loss prevention says that smartphones are being traded in the open market, not for the value of the phone but for the value of the data it contained. Most companies still do not have responsible disposal policies for old equipment. Another concern, the report adds, is spyware or malware from downloads. 

McAfee predicts that the world will have 50 billion devices by 2016, up from the current 10 billion. “The current smartphone has more processing power than the Apollo 2 module that landed on the moon and there is no way people are going to stay with corporate devices,” says Jagadish Mahapatra, MD of McAfee India. He says that McAfee is creating one platform to manage all these devices, with segregation of applications and protection being key features.

Business Or Trend?
In a study by Research In Motion (RIM), 38 per cent of 5,000 respondents said their organisations were using enterprise mobility solutions. According to participating CIOs, 95 per cent companies plan to deploy enterprise mobility solutions in the next year. Only 5 per cent of the respondents indicated that they had no plans. The study says that the IT sector first adopted mobility solutions, followed by manufacturing and financial services sectors. “BYOD integration is going to be part of new business solutions such as cloud, mobility, big data and BI (business intelligence) services,” says Sandeep Gupta, director at Protiviti Consulting.

Firms such as Wipro have allowed BYOD within the company, with devices on iOS, Windows 7.5, Windows 8 and Android 2.3 being supported. “Specific challenges arise in dealing with multiple Android variants and some involve great customisation,” says Ramesh Nagarajan, CIO of Wipro Technologies. Another challenge for the company is dealing with ‘jailbroken’ Android devices (a jailbroken phone lets the user install applications from sources outside the Android store). “We have deployed policies to identify them and isolate them from the enterprise. To be secure, the BYOD traffic is routed through a segregated network and a separate gateway,” adds Nagarajan. Wipro has 4,100 employees who use their own devices.

Vodafone and RIM are building business units around MDM. A few years ago, BlackBerry was pushing its mobile phones with push mail to enterprise users. With smartphones gaining in popularity, it is betting big on MDM. It is creating a console for CIOs to handle multiple devices and enable access both at the desktop and server levels. “We will help organisations create an app catalogue and we have 450 policies that can guide them through their BYOD programme,” says Sunil Lalvani, director of enterprise sales at RIM.

It is security that will be the biggest business in the whole BYOD scenario. Symantec and McAfee will compete or work with companies like Citrix, Cisco, Infosys, TCS and Wipro to implement security solutions. But smart devices are going to take over from PCs and laptops. So, CIOs are going to find themselves in a bit of a catch-22 in the coming years.


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 28-01-2013)