The growth of the smartphone and tablet market may be encouraging the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in India. Will allowing employees to use devices and applications of their choice lead to a happier and more efficient workforce? A new research commissioned by VMware says "yes."
According to the New Way of Work Study 2012, conducted across 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, there is evidence that working on personal smartphones and tablets, and using social media, actually make people more productive at the workplace.
This is especially true in India, where 82 percent of employees are provided with a portable device from their employer, but 77 percent still bring their own device to work to help them complete their tasks. Of this group, 72 percent claimed to be more productive when they worked on the device of their choice, and 70 percent claimed to be happier in their role when they were allowed to use a device of their choice. 66 percent say they feel less stressed when they can choose the IT tools they use.
Indian workers also indicated that the need to be mobile and connected was firing their desire to use personal mobile devices at work. This is demonstrated by high incidences of employees in India bringing their personal smartphones (78 percent) to the workplace, followed by laptops (53 percent), and tablets (17 percent). The research shows that many respondents are actually working outside the office; 79 percent are working from home and 53 percent on the road, which is considerably higher than the average across the region.
In fact, 47 percent of the Indian workers among the respondents felt their work environments were restricting their ability to use their own portable device. (Specifically, this group consists of 2,077 people, ages 18 to 64 years old, who worked in organizations with more than 1,000 staff globally for at least 15 hours or more a week across Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Japan, and South Korea.) Thus, current IT policies in Indian companies on use of personal devices actually lowered their potential work efficiency.
There are many reports that are equally gung-ho about BYOD in India: The Cisco Connected World Technology Report, the Citrix Workplace of the Future, the Accenture CIO Mobility Survey, and so on. There is no denying we are still on the hype-cycle, but if the virtual worker is really dictating work policy, how are organizations responding at the ground level?
CIOs seem to be graduating from the initial stage of creating "permitted devices" lists, and are now focusing on securing the infrastructure. This shift in BYOD tactics is partly a reaction to protests from lower-paid employees.
ThoughtWorks India gives employees $1,000 each to buy a device. Citrix offers an optional taxable $2,100 stipend to acquire devices; those who do not avail the offer still come in with their own devices.
Where mobility is not central to all functions, companies are permitting BYOD for select functions. For example, ING Life Insurance provides access to corporate email accounts, contact lists, and intranets to its sales staff, and encourages field workers to use personal laptops and notebooks on the company network.
With security being the main worry, the possibility of a device not managed by the IT department accessing the corporate network with basic Active Directory authentication is real. Hence, network level intelligence is required. Flipkart, a cloud-based company with Web-based applications, has put in place data and network access policies that do not store any key information on an employee’s device.
In order to enable seamless functioning of integrated enterprise apps across multiple devices, some companies are also investing in mobile device management platforms and mobile application delivery software. SAP Labs India is a case in point.
There are some, like CSC India, that adopt stringent data loss prevention practices. If an employee’s device is lost, all the data is deleted remotely through a central command center.
Those in the BFSI sector who are especially wary about mobile threats fall back on virtual desktop infrastructure. SBI Capital Markets, where 90 percent of the employees use Blackberry and 10 percent use tablets, vouches for VDI as an ideal solution to isolate corporate data from the end user’s personal environment, while enabling the organization to deliver existing applications without making major upgrades.
While it seems like organizations in India are following a generally ad-hoc manner, the very essence of BYOD is in each player having a unique approach. As long as Indian CIOs also remember to finalize end-user contracts with employees who wish to access corporate resources in exchange for some level of control over device, there should be no great mishap.