Embracing 'bring your own' technology

Embracing 'bring your own' technology

Reasonably-priced and increasingly powerful consumer information technology, such as laptops and smartphones, has proved a boon for the home user, but creates a growing challenge for the organisation as employees want to continue using their devices in the office.

Ben Robinson, CIO of electronic payment company Paymark, takes an optimistic view of the issue that has become known as "bring your own technology", "consumerisation of IT" and even "rogue" IT.

Fears centre on potential security breaches as a consequence of allowing user devices to access the workplace network, or of employee discontent should such access be disallowed. The kind of people most likely to want to use their technology across home and work are often exactly the technology-savvy people a company least wants to lose.

Robinson, however, sees little problem with user technology in the office, "providing it's properly regulated."

"My initial thought about 'consumerisation' was it's a buzzword," he tells a CIO Insights luncheon, "but then 'virtualisation' was a buzzword, and 'cloud' was a buzzword: and they've proved quite significant. We need to pay attention to some of these buzzwords.

"My second thought: CIOs don't really have a say in the matter; consumerisation or 'bring your own technology' (BYOT) has been with us for a while. If you don't believe me, try stopping one of your staff of the office from surfing the web on their iPhone.

"It's not just to do with devices," Robinson cautions; "we think iPads, we think iPhones; but it's also about applications such as Facebook and YouTube."

The first principle of handling IT consumerisation at Paymark is to draw a clear line between personally-owned technology and Paymark-provided technology, Robinson says.

"Our policy is that only Paymark-supplied smart phones and laptops have access to our email.

"We are very, very security sensitive, as you can imagine, since we're in the finance industry," he says.

Paymark operates the network through which, according to its figures, about three-quarters of electronic payment transactions are processed. It is jointly owned by BNZ, National, ASB and Westpac banks.

"In some industries you can have a margin of error," says Robinson "but how upset would you be if you made a transaction and your account balance was [not what you expected] by the end of the day? We do a billion transactions a year; we have to make [the network] secure; we have to make it reliable.

"All our staff are cool with [being told] 'you can't use your own gear to access the work servers'," he says.

"But we do enable web mail; so you can go home, or even to an internet café, log on and go through some two-factor authentication and you can access your office email. You can't access our file-servers at work, though."

To slake the employees' thirst for internet access at work using their own equipment, Paymark also supplies wifi in the building, independent of the main network.

"So if people want to bring their iPad to work and look up something that we don't allow -- for example Hotmail -- they can fill their boots; we've got no problem with that," he says.

This means existing security technology and policy can be directly translated to the BYO environment, he says.

"Staff can use their own laptop at work if they want to and they can use the public wifi. They can't connect to the LAN; but none of them wants to do that; they want to have access to their own [data and applications]."

Most of the ICT staff have iPhones supplied by the company -- as a result of a working arrangement with Vodafone. Staff are also supplied with laptops. There was some excessive usage for leisure purposes initially, especially when Facebook and YouTube were opened up for the staff. But such excessive use "dies away pretty quickly", he says.

Monitoring of irregular usage is done by human resources, not the ICT division.

As far as IT challenges go, the BYOT question is "a walk in the park", says Robinson, when compared to some of the other problems a networked company may face, such as complete loss of power to one of the datacentres it uses. "That's a hundred times more intense than worrying about somebody playing Angry Birds on their iPhone in the office.

"Why bother complicating life?" he concludes. "In terms of IT challenges, I find this BYO technology very simple; just whack up your wifi and use the policies you've already got in place. Everybody's happy with it; we haven't had any problems."

People and providers

Robinson went on to discuss a variety of other topics, such as encouraging satisfactory service from suppliers. Here, he says, it's too easy to adopt a "Kiwi attitude" of being unwilling to complain and stir up discord -- a false economy in the long run.

"When you have a lousy supplier experience, and we all do, let [the supplier] know. Stick to the facts and don't get emotional about it. Don't be weak and put up with the situation, or change supplier without giving a reason."

Robinson takes a similar tack on the issue of staff performance. He uses a simple two-by-two matrix: whether the team member is doing the job well or badly -- just a simple two-point scale, and on a similar basis whether their behaviour and attitude at work is positive or negative. "Are they constructive or destructive? Everyone I put into one of the four boxes on the matrix.

"I say to my managers, if you lose the 'top right' staff that's a mark against you -- unless they go on to a bigger role, because we want people to be successful." But those in the bottom left box are encouraged to think about moving on to another employer or to a different role at Paymark. "The in-betweens [with satisfactory work but poor attitude or vice-versa], they've got to change or go.

"One of my managers came to me apprehensive that he'd lose one of his staff. I said 'where does he sit on this grid?' It was the bottom left box. I said 'if you lose that guy, I'll buy you a beer'."

On the other hand, he says, at least one "bottom left person" tackled with the evaluation improved sufficiently to qualify for the top right box; "that's a fantastic result," Robinson says. "If you share with your staff where they sit, they're normally quite receptive to it."

Early in his time as Paymark CIO, Robinson struck the common problem of silos in the organisation, resulting in issues being escalated upwards when they should have been tackled by cooperation between peers across the silo boundaries. He would take hold of the person who was about to refer the issue upwards and walk him over to talk to a colleague on another appropriate team. In a short time, the escalation stopped.

"A year later, we shared with the staff what we'd done and none of them were aware of it. The silo walls had been broken down. It's an incredibly simple technique but you've got to get off your arse and do it."

Unisys sponsored the CIO Insights Luncheon on 'Consumerisation of Technology' in Auckland and Wellington.

Read how other New Zealand CIOs are the myriad challenges of supporting remote users and staff who want to use their favourite devices at work.

Sidebar: BYO tech opportunity as well as challenge

The thirst for using home-sourced technology with the business is not just something that applies to employees, says Brett Hodgson, managing director, Unisys NZ. "Customers and [in the case of government agencies] citizens want to interact with organisations; they want it now and they want to do it when and where they are, in real time, he says at the CIO luncheon.

Early this year, Unisys worked with IDC on a survey of organisations' view of BYO technology. This builds on a previous survey and shows a large and growing enthusiasm for using outside-sourced technology in the business.

These are not just "tech toys", says Hodgson. "In the next 12 months, 7 percent of employees expect a tablet device to be their primary tool for doing business, 10 percent believe a smartphone will be their primary tool."

Last year most employers surveyed weren't fully aware of the extent of BYO technology "or maybe turned a blind eye".

Now they are accepting the challenge, though they are still rather "daunted".

"So the implications of allowing mobile devices and apps in the workplace, either employee- or company-owned," Hodgson says "is that they are going to cause us to re-examine:

• What we mean by security policy,

• How we are going to support end users and manage the device lifecycle; and,

• How we are going to unleash the potential in them."

"The first step is to get better visibility into your employees' and customers' adoption of mobile devices and applications so you know what you're dealing with," he says. Then "work in partnership with your business teams to build business cases for how consumer-style technology can improve business processes and create new opportunities and business models."

Enhance security on mobile devices, particularly those the organisation doesn't own, he says. Establish or revamp security policies. "Policies are really important and you need to enforce them. Just saying no to BYO technology isn't an option; it is happening."

Integrate the devices into your current business model, rather than devising new business models for them, Hodgson advises. Provide training, so the devices' full potential is exploited and they are used productively and safely.

Review your support mix and build more self-service and remote management tools to keep the cost of the management under control and as low as possible, he says. "And consider that managed service providers can sometimes provide support faster for a greater variety of devices and apps than you can."

Unisys sponsored the CIO Insights Luncheon on 'Consumerisation of Technology' in Auckland and Wellington.

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