Businesses Must Adapt to Permanent BYOD Presence: Ovum

More than two-thirds of smartphone-owning employees bring their own smartphones to work, and one-fifth do so against company policy.

The bring-your-own-device trend is here to stay, with corporate BYOD activity by full-time employees (FTEs) remaining steady at almost 60 percent over the past two years, according to a report from IT research firm Ovum.

The report advised business leaders that they would need to respond and adapt now to this change in employee behavior, rather than being steamrollered by it. The findings of the firm’s 2013 multi-market BYOX (bring-your-own-anything) employee study indicated the phenomenon shows no signs of disappearing, as nearly 70 percent of employees who own a smartphone or tablet choose to use it to access corporate data.

"Trying to stand in the path of consumerized mobility is likely to be a damaging and futile exercise," Richard Absalom, consumer impact technology analyst at Ovum, said in a statement. "We believe businesses are better served by exploiting this behavior to increase employee engagement and productivity, and promote the benefits of enterprise mobility."

In addition, the personal tablet market continues to grow, with personal tablet ownership by FTEs rising to 44.5 percent from 28.4 percent over the last 12 months, suggesting more businesses will see these devices on their networks.

Moreover, this activity will continue whether the CIO wants it to or not. The study shows that more than two-thirds (67.8 percent) of smartphone-owning employees bring their own smartphone to work, and 15.4 percent of these do so without the IT department’s knowledge, and more than one-fifth (20.9 percent) do so in spite of an anti-BYOD policy.

Ovum’s research also depicts the rise of the bring-your-own-application (BYOA) trend. While email and calendar remains the most commonly used application on both corporately provisioned and personally owned devices, the usage of new-generation cloud productivity applications, such as enterprise social networking, file sync and share and instant messaging (IM) and voice over IP (VOIP), is growing fast.

"The thread that runs through all of the data is that IT is not keeping up with the changing demands and behavior patterns of the new mobilized, consumerized workforce. Nowhere is this clearer than in the BYOA data," Absalom continued. "If employees are sourcing their own applications to do their job, then IT is not delivering the right tools or a good enough user experience for its employees."

The report also found that these types of apps are increasingly being sourced by employees themselves and not through managed corporate channels, with more than one-quarter (25.6 percent) of employees discovering their own enterprise social networking apps, while 22.1 percent and 30.7 percent of employees discovered their own file sync and share apps and Instant Messaging/VOIP apps.

Ninety percent of U.S. employees used their personal smartphones for work within the past year, yet only 46 percent believe their employers are prepared for any issues that could arise from BYOD, according to a May study in which a network of Cisco partners polled 1,000 consumers. The survey revealed that 39 percent of employee's personal devices are not password-protected and just over half (52 percent) reported accessing unsecured WiFi networks with their devices, a well-known vulnerability in the cyber-security industry.