BYOD Growth to Continue Through 2017: Gartner

Expanding access and driving innovation will ultimately be the legacy of the BYOD phenomenon.

As organizations continue to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, it is projected that 38 percent of companies will stop providing devices to workers by 2017, according to a global survey of chief information officers (CIOs) by IT research firm Gartner.

The company defines a BYOD strategy as an alternative approach that allows employees, business partners and other users to use a personally selected and purchased client device to execute enterprise applications and access data. It typically spans smartphones and tablets, but the strategy may also be used for PCs, including netbooks, notebooks or other portable connected devices.

"BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades," David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction and reducing or avoiding costs."

The report predicted that by coupling the effect of mass market adoption with the steady declines in carrier fees, employers will gradually reduce their subsidies and as the number of workers using mobile devices expands, and those who receive no subsidy whatsoever will grow. Expanding access and driving innovation will ultimately be the legacy of the BYOD phenomenon, the report noted.

"The business case for BYOD needs to be better evaluated," Willis said. "Most leaders do not understand the benefits, and only 22 percent believe they have made a strong business case. Like other elements of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), mobile initiatives are often exploratory and may not have a clearly defined and quantifiable goal, making IT planners uncomfortable. If you are offering BYOD, take advantage of the opportunity to show the rest of the organization the benefits it will bring to them and to the business."

More than half of organizations rate themselves high in security of corporate data for enterprise-owned mobile devices. However, BYOD does increase risks and changes expectations for CIOs. Unsurprisingly, security is the top concern for BYOD programs, and the risk of data leakage on mobile platforms is particularly acute.

One of the major issues cited in the report is that some mobile devices are designed to share data in the cloud and have no general purpose file system for applications to share, increasing the potential for data to be easily duplicated between applications and moved between applications and the cloud.

"We're finally reaching the point where IT officially recognizes what has always been going on: People use their business device for non-work purposes," Willis said. "They often use a personal device in business. Once you realize that, you'll understand you need to protect data in another way besides locking down the full device. It is essential that IT specify which platforms will be supported and how; what service levels a user should expect; what the user's own responsibilities and risks are; who qualifies; and that IT provides guidelines for employees purchasing a personal device for use at work, such as minimum requirements for operating systems."