More than 6 out of 10 companies approve of personal device use for work

Most companies choose a mix of company-provided and employee-owned devices

More than six out of 10 companies allow or mandate the use of employee-owned mobile devices for work in order to increase productivity, according to a survey released Tuesday.

While the BYOD (bring your own device) push has received a lot of press coverage lately, the majority of companies still provide at least a subset of devices to employees. One-third of companies strictly mandate which devices can be used for work purposes and don't allow the use of any type of device brought in by the employee, according to the survey conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a nonprofit trade group.

The online survey of 502 U.S. IT and business executives was conducted in February. It also found that the most popular option, cited by 58% of the respondents, was to have a mix of corporate-owned and employee-owned devices.

For 53% of those surveyed, the top reason for allowing employees to use or select their own devices was to increase productivity while employees are away from the office. Another reason was that employees like to use familiar devices.

Twelve percent of the respondents stated that it was simply too difficult to stop employees from using their own devices.

CompTIA's report said that companies looking to maximize the benefits of a mobile device-enabled workforce must "look beyond simply which devices are used and re-examine business processes and workforce needs."

Companies should assess the specific needs of workers, rather than just deploying one device over another on a companywide basis, said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA.

"For maximum benefit, workflow changes will need to be considered prior to evaluating workforce needs. But this is not a trivial matter, and companies will need to weigh the cost of operational disruption and change management against the potential advantages," Robinson said in a statement.

Most companies, however, are not taking these steps, according to the survey. Most of the current activity revolves around devices -- provisioning, securing and allowing access to existing systems.

According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the BYOD and enterprise mobility market is expected to grow at the rate of 15% annually, from $67 billion in 2011 to $181 billion by 2017.

Shipments of smartphones and tablets are expected to exceed shipments of desktops and laptops this year, according to MarketsandMarkets, but desktop/laptop shipments are holding steady rather than being replaced by the new devices.

"Enterprise behavior also suggests that mobile devices are being treated as add-ons, not replacements," the research firm stated.

In CompTIA's survey, one-third of the respondents said that their companies still "strictly mandate" which devices can be used for work purposes and do not allow any type of employee-owned device. Just 8% of the respondents said that their companies allow employees to provide their own devices, software and any other services.

Among respondents who said that their companies provide mobile devices to employees, 39% said it helped to standardize and consolidate IT support, while 31% said it was more cost-effective to provide employees with devices rather than a stipend.

"This reasoning is contrary to the school of thought suggesting that BYOD can be a cost-saving move," Robinson said in the statement. "Best practices will emerge that may change the cost dynamics, but BYOD may be similar to cloud computing in that companies may find other compelling reasons beyond cost savings to pursue the strategy."

As more employees bring their own devices to work, they also want to use their own applications and cloud services, resulting in an industry shift toward the use of not only mobile device management tools, but also mobile application management (MAM) software, CompTIA said.

Companies are adopting a variety of strategies to deal with the need to manage mobile devices. According to the survey, the most common strategy, cited by 49% of the respondents, is to deploy or explore the use of virtual desktops. After use of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) technology, building custom mobile apps for business systems was the most common strategy, cited by 29% of the respondents, followed by moving business applications to a cloud platform that can be accessed through a browser, cited by 28% of the respondents.

"Twenty-four percent of companies report having a formal mobility policy, up just 2% over the past year," the report states. "However, the number of companies that plan to build a formal policy has doubled from 20% to 40% over that time.

"Additionally, companies see increases across the board with regard to the departments involved in building policy, indicating a holistic view toward mobile practices," it stated.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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