What’s stopping your business from embracing wearables?

Does your company fear change? At an individual level, such fears are understandable – as humans, we are all hard wired to appreciate the value of routine, and our fear of this being disrupted is a primal, evolutionary response.

Having said that, it’s clear that there should be a clear distinction between the instinctive, anthropological aspects of human behaviour, and the more rational, logical aspects of the enterprise.

The imminent emergence of new, potentially game-changing wearable technology within the enterprise is the perfect example of this, and demonstrates the extent to which many organisations struggle to cope with change at a fundamental level.

From BYOD to WYOD

There’s no doubt that with the unveiling of the Apple Watch spearheading a slew of wearable technology launches this year, 2015 is expected to be the Year of Wear Your Own Device (WYOD).

This year, we will move beyond the wearables hype of 2014, and live with the reality that wearable technology is changing the way employees work and interact. Despite this, recent research conducted by

Despite this, recent research conducted by Vanson Bourne found that more than a third (36 per cent) of all UK enterprises still do not see the need for embracing incorporating wearable devices into their broader BYOD strategy, with those in the financial services industry the worst offenders at 52 per cent.

Let’s be clear about this: the consequences of ignoring an entirely new category of technology in the workplace, and being ill equipped to deal with it, can be extremely expensive in terms of opportunity cost and competition.

If businesses are not willing or able to get to grips with wearable technology then we could see a marked increase in the amount of data that is leaked and compromised, in the same way that more unauthorised BYOD activities increased the attack surface and data leak potential.

The barriers to adoption

So, what’s stopping these organisations from addressing the opportunity that wearable technology presents?

Mobile computing is at a new turning point. Wearables are the next wave of the mobile revolution, just as the business of BYOD was the first.

Over the next three to five years, some of the most cutting edge advances in mobile will be in wearables. However, the truth is that there are a number of barriers in place that are preventing business decision makers at all levels from readying themselves for the wearable tidal wave.

For instance, a quarter of all respondents to the same survey said that they already had strict policies in place to restrict the use of unauthorised devices in the workplace.

The thinking, presumably, is that if the use of wearable devices is regulated within the workplace, then any potential threats will be mitigated. But doesn’t this miss the point?

Having a policy is just one part of a management approach, having the right technology solution to enforce that policy while driving productivity upwards, is a key challenge.

The truth is that security isn’t just a hardware issue – it must also be dealt with at the application layer. After all, there’s no point restricting the hardware that an employee can use in the workplace, if they are able to take that same device home and connect it via an API to a wearable device that uses unsecured applications.

Don’t forget that data security is about more than just sticking your finger in a dam to prevent a leak. The focus must, instead, be on building a more secure dam in the first place to ensure that the data remains where you want it, when you want it.

This involves both data and device layer management, which still enable productivity through secure access to content and tools.

Perhaps more worrying still is the fact that 15 per cent of IT organisations responding to a Vanson Bourne survey cited difficulties in convincing senior management as to the importance of embracing the age of WYOD.

There are a number of reasons why this may be the case. The increase in costs and use of resources required to implement an effective WYOD strategy are typically the two main objections from those primarily concerned with the bottom line.

This argument, of course, falls down when you consider the potential costs involved in containing a leak of sensitive data, not to mention the resources that would be needed in order to mop up the ensuing mess.

As we saw with the first wave of BYOD, people will self enable around outright prohibition or lack of policy around devices, and in doing so can create serious issues for data security and compliance. Embracing mobile became non-optional, both to prevent such issues as well as to realise gains, such as the typical 240 hours per year extra worked by mobile enabled employees.

Wearables will bring the same challenges and will have to be addressed as part of an organisation’s overall mobile approach.

Put simply, in the modern age, data security is not something that any enterprise can afford to pay lip service to. Those organisations who succeed over the coming months and years will be those who are prepared to move with the times, embrace change and innovation like wearable technology and make sure that they can deal with the impact it could have on their business.

Information security should not be treated as an optional extra, and it’s clear that secure, enterprise-ready solutions that can mitigate security threats while helping drive employee access to corporate content and productivity tools, regardless of what device they come from, are the way forward.

So does your organisation fear change, and is it refusing to embrace the new era of wearable technology?

If so, isn’t it time you asked yourselves what’s stopping you?

Keith Poyser is GM of EMEA for Accellion.