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New research into BYOD and mobile working trends

BYOD, or bring your own device, is a constant talking point in the enterprise, and in this podcast John Engates from Rackspace joins me to discuss new industry research the group has released in partnership with Manchester Business School into the growth of BYOD.

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John starts with explaining how this research came about.

We have been doing surveys out to prospects and customers and people in the industry around BYOD. This is not just a Rackspace customer survey but covers the broader industry and we wanted to gauge how people are adopting these various technologies and the trends that are behind them. We started with cloud computing and we have moved on most recently to mobile, Bring Your Own Device and the trends towards application delivery on a mobile device within the context of IT. It seems that the trend is really picking up in that direction. One of things that we picked up on was the trend towards more and more business applications within the enterprise being delivered primarily on a mobile platform. I think in the past we used to look at maybe a desktop client and then we moved on to the web browser and I think the trend is in the direction of many applications being delivered as a primary mechanism on the mobile device and whether that is a tablet or Smartphone or some other device.

As we look forward the real trend is that people want that same experience that they get in their consumer lives whether it is a social networking app or one of their other favorite applications, they want that same experience delivered from the IT department with their business applications. That came through loud and clear in the survey.

Were there any real surprises within the survey’s anything that you didn’t expect to find?

We are a company that is always looking ahead in terms of cloud computing and adoption of these technologies so I don’t think there were huge surprises. I think there was more a validation for us. I think the surprises were in just how far people are taking this, the numbers were higher than we expected in terms of adoption. There were some numbers in the 80% range where I figured that people would be 50:50 in terms of how they were adopting mobile devices. Some of the questions we asked led me to believe that this was just an unstoppable trend in terms of the adoption of mobile in the workplace for real business applications, I think that was quite a surprise to me.

You mentioned that employees expect now to have access to applications within the workspace in the same way that they do out in the consumer world. What challenges is this presenting to IT departments?

I think what IT departments need to understand is the kind of tools and techniques and the technology that the big consumer web properties are using. That is part of our interest in this; to understand how fast this adoption cycle is going to happen and therefore how that impacts the tools and the technology that we are going to deliver. Cloud computing is a great enabler for mobile and mobile is a great driver in demand for cloud computing. I think they are like two sides of the same coin so from my perspective the message to IT is that you need to start taking these next generation tools very seriously. You cannot build a great mobile experience with last generation technology and last generation architectures so you need to be looking forward at what the big web properties are doing. What is Google doing to deliver their experience on the Android? What is Apple doing to deliver their mobile experiences? How can you take advantage of that as an IT leader or business leader and how can you tap into the same technologies set and make that a part of your application portfolio underpinning. That is really what we are driving towards as a company here at Rackspace with all the cloud computing offerings that we have we are trying to give IT the same technology foundations as the big guys have.

What are employees hoping to get out of mobile working or BYOD?

I think from an employee’s standpoint it is very much like the consumer standpoint they want convenience, they want access anywhere all the time they want a lightweight experience where they can get into their application very quickly and not feel like they have to open the laptop and find the Wi-Fi and log into the VPN and do all the things we are used to doing in a laptop or notebook experience. They want it at their fingertips, instant and reliable access. We are an increasingly mobile workforce, much more than in the past. We want to do business from the coffee shop, from the airport and we want to stay in contact with the rest of our workforce everywhere. We basically want the same kinds of experiences that we have come to expect at home. BYOD is the idea that a worker can bring the kind of tools, tablet or Smartphone they want to use into the workplace and not everybody necessarily is going to allow unlimited choice but we should have a great experience for the employee so they are not frustrated with his interactions with the tools and the apps that they are going to have to use in the workplace.

Did your research identify a rise in corporate app stores?

That was another thing that came up in the survey actually the idea that we were as employers or as businesses going to have our own app store. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head but again that was one of the ones that stood out to me that there was a large degree of interest in a corporate app store where employees had their approved applications and their native workplace applications and the ability to mix and match those depending upon their job role or needs within the organization. But yes, that was another idea that came up and I didn’t realise it was going to be as interesting to people as it was. They want the same experience as iTunes or the Android store but within the workforce.

What are the attitudes and concerns around security with BYOD?

I think everyone thinks of security when they think of adopting a new technology or bringing in a new technology into the workplace. Security should be on the mind of everyone in IT and even the employees themselves should be thinking that way. I don’t think it should be overwhelmingly difficult to start to adopt these new technologies otherwise we are stifling innovation. If you put security in this land of unattainability and just assume that we can never do this kind of thing because it is just not possible then I think you really just put people off from really trying to do innovative things. If you think about security in a practical way, the same way we have thought about it for all of computing history, you just tune it for the mobile. There are certain types of applications that are probably going to come sooner or earlier than others but we certainly do not want to turn off the innovation pipeline by saying things like security is a blocker and we cannot get past it.

What is the level of investment put into BYOD and mobile working by businesses out in industry in general?

Certainly mobile permeates the workforce at least at my company and the companies I visit a lot the mobile devices are in the hands of the employees all day long. They are on the move constantly and now I think we are starting to think about what application experiences we need to create so that they are even more effective with those devices. The question is are we going to as IT leaders, truly enable them to be as productive as they could be or are we going to give them the license to use these in a full business context rather than the current situation of a hybrid of personal and business, heavy on the personal and light of the business. I think is how it stands today but I think we could certainly flip that around and at least make it balanced and maybe even flip to the other direction. We need to give them the right tools and the right apps and give them license to use it in the ways they want to. In some ways it’s a matter of time, we need soak in this new technology. It is a little bit like ecommerce was in Europe in the early days, we were reluctant to put our credit card number into a website and that took a while for people to come to realise it was okay and it was going to be safe. We all picked it up as second nature and the mobile experience in the workforce will probably be the same.

It’s interesting to see how new technology is changing the way we work and do business isn’t, looking forward do you think the days of the desktop PC really are over now?

For me personally I believe it is. I think I have a tendency to try out the new stuff and move on very quickly. A true desktop is something I don’t own any more and I have a very small mobile set of tools. I use a thin laptop, tablet and a Smartphone and I tend to go for the smaller devices so I think that we are definitely going in that direction. There may be pockets where a large monitor and a desktop computer make a lot of sense but for the mobile workforce for the people who are consuming a lot of data, the executive staff can do without a true desktop or at least very soon we will be able to. They will always exist but certainly the days are numbered.