Consumerization trend creates IT worries, worker benefits

Wichita Falls, Texas, rolls out iPads as an extension of its content management system

A Cisco-commissioned survey of 600 businesses found that 95% permit the use of employee-owned smartphones and tablets in the workplace.

The survey also found that 76% of IT managers consider the consumerization-of-IT a positive for their companies because employees can be more productive and feel more satisfied with their jobs.

Cisco's study even put a dollar value on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, estimating productivity gains with workplace use of consumer devices of between $300 and $1,300 annually, depending on the worker.

Despite that value, however, BYOD has costs, especially for IT support. Cisco's survey found that 20% of all IT spending in 2014 will be for mobility initiatives, up from 10% in 2010.

"No doubt, BYOD's difficult, and if there were a way to get out of it, IT would," said Joseph Bradley, general manager of Cisco's Internet business solutions group, which commissioned the survey. "It's a serious challenge. But what the survey shows is that IT understands that consumerization's actually happening and they wonder how they can create value. It's a painful process, not just to support a consumer device, but provide security. There are so many things to consider."

The survey validates what might seem obvious to many IT managers who have been grappling with the consumerization trend for years, well before the first iPhone's introduction in 2007.

IDC analyst Rohit Mehra said that while Cisco's survey shows 95% of companies allow use of consumer devices on corporate networks in some fashion, the number of consumer devices accessing business applications inside of an enterprise is still relatively small.

Only 41% of employee-owned consumer devices were used to access business applications, according to a survey IDC conducted last year, Mehra said.

"It's one thing to just let an employee-owned device on the [corporate Wi-Fi] network [for browsing or social networking] and not allow access to enterprise applications, and that penetration is pretty high," he said. "But the real proof in the pudding is how many users have true enterprise application access with their devices, and those numbers are still relatively low."

BYOD bolsters Mobile Device Management needs

Analysts said the BYOD trend has led to an expanding number of Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors eager to help IT groups better manage devices running on different operating systems. Generally, MDM software offers ways to inventory which users have certain devices and permission to access various internal apps. Security capabilities in MDM give IT the ability to wipe data from devices and block access to certain applications.

Gartner has estimated there are 50 to 100 MDM vendors globally, depending on how the category is defined. IDC said the entire MDM market was about $300 million in revenue in 2010, but will reach $1.2 billion in 2015.

With such a large market for MDM, choices for IT managers will only grow more complex, analysts said. In addition to MDM, some vendors profess it is better to control content and not devices and call themselves Mobile Content Management providers. Some wireless device controls are packaged by vendors along with smartphones or tablets or added by wireless carriers.

Here comes Telecom Expense Management

A variety of Telecom Expense Management (TEM) vendors are now also offering MDM support.

Global TEM vendor Quickcomm recently blogged about the value of combining MDM with TEM services to lower support costs for end user devices.

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