Beca: Transparent policy key to BYOD

Beca: Transparent policy key to BYOD

BYOD project gives an edge over competitors, says IT manager Andy Shields.

To support its growth in key Australian and Asian markets, engineering firm Beca is investing heavily on its IT infrastructure. The move to its new office on Auckland's Pitt Street coincided with a refresh of its networking hardware, and earlier this year it announced the deployment of an AT&T VPN. Beca is also one of the largest companies in New Zealand to implement and support a bring your own device (BYOD) policy, which group IT manager Andy Shields says gives the company an edge over its competitors.

Working remotely from client sites gives Beca employees the ability work more closely with customers, says Shields. Supporting remote working also means supporting mobile devices, and staff are more productive on their own devices than corporate devices, he adds.

"BYOD achieves a greater level of buy-in from our workers. They are familiar with their devices and are more comfortable using them," says Shields.

Beca is an Auckland-based professional engineering and related consultancy services company, and one of the largest ICT using organisations in New Zealand, ranking number 39 in this year’s MIS100 report. The company was established almost a century ago, and now has 2600 staff across the Asia Pacific. It reported revenue of $429 million last year.

In 2009 the firm first discussed the deployment of a mobile device management system to support a BYOD policy implemented the year earlier. At the time the company was a BlackBerry shop, but also supported a small number of Symbian, Windows Mobile, and iOS devices.

The iOS devices in particular have driven much of the BYOD growth at Beca since, with a lot of the pressure to support the device coming from senior levels, says Shields.

Beca uses Good for Enterprise, a suite of tools which allows end-point device management and policy creation. Shields says in 2009 Good was the market leader in MDM (mobile device management) systems. He had positive previous experience with Good while working at ERP developer Geac.

Importantly for Shields, this system also supports Windows Phone and Android devices, which allowed for the widest range of devices to be afforded to Beca staff.

"We wanted to be device agnostic," he says.

Shields says he is keeping an eye on competing services such as AirWatch, which is resold and repackaged by Telecom and Vodafone in New Zealand, to keep up with the latest MDM trends and features, but investment in Good and regular updates from the MDM provider means there is no reason for Beca to switch providers at the moment.

For Shields, a transparent BYOD policy with wide user feedback is the most important consideration for any BYOD initiative. His advice to other IT managers and CIOs considering BYOD policies is to be very honest with business stakeholders from the outset.

"Be very clear about how intrusive IT is going to be with [the employee's] device," says Shields.

"Involve human resources from a privacy perspective, legal from a cost perspective, and get the users to represent themselves so everyone is on the same page."

Shields says staff were reluctant to let IT intrude on their personal devices, but at the same time, IT has a responsibility to maintain corporate security on Beca's network. This ultimately resulted in a policy that attempts to meet employees half way, and limits the governance IT has over a staff's personal device.

Corporate data and personal data is containerised and separated, and the policy makes it clear that the work "bubble" is only to be used for work purposes. Any data stored in the silo can be remotely wiped without it affecting any personal data such as photos or private emails.

"I don't want to manage the device itself, I only want to manage the important data," says Shields.

Shields makes the point that although the deployment started in 2010, it still is not complete.

Email, contacts, and calendars have are now supported on mobile devices but access to the company's intranet and CRM system is still being worked on.

"This is a progressive implementation, we're not there yet, but we are part way there," says Shields.

The next step is for Beca to renew its SharePoint and Dynamics environments, which Shields says is an opportunity to further develop Beca's mobile capabilities using tools provided by Good. This project is in its ninth month, and Shields says a pilot is in progress.

Sim Ahmed (@simantics) is a reporter for CIO New Zealand.

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