BT has recently published some research conducted by Vanson Bourne raising the prospect that the choice of device within an organisation is more strategic than one might initially think. The research questioned 100 IT leaders from organisations of more than 1000 employees.
The full research report was not available as of writing but the detail contained within the press release revealed some interesting insights. For example only 10% respondents said that employees had the right devices for their jobs, inferring that 90% don’t!
It becomes clear in reading through some of the key results in the survey that companies need to consider the impact of not having a clear device strategy. The impact of not having one seems to impact staff morale, business efficiency and by inference security.
Nearly half of the respondents (45%) believed that employees were being hampered by not having the right device for their job.One of the challenges caused by having the wrong device, according to 17% if the respondents, was that it impeded their ability to be mobile. Whether this means that employees did not have the right tools to work on the move is interesting but hardly conclusive.
This raises a number of questions. For example what is the right device for the job? Why have companies not issued clear guidance to their staff about what they should look for when choosing devices? Part of this problem is that companies have been quick to offload their capital expenditure of devices onto employees through Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). So is this a case of the policy failing or needing to be fine tuned?
Some companies still provide devices and smartphones, tablets and laptops all have their place for certain employees. However, it is rare for any employee to get all three. This suggests that companies may need to consider whether the supply of a device should be based on an individual basis rather than corporate wide standard or even a role based one. In a world where software is becoming personalised, should the device be personalised as well?
With other research showing the high extent of accessibility to cloud storage solutions, it is surprising that as many as 13% of respondents viewed access to online and cloud based resource as an issue. This may be because of compliance issues, or it may just be because secure access to data is not always there from mobile providers. The roll out of 4G has brought improved speeds but inside buildings access can be limited and in customer buildings WiFi is not always available. For employees on the move it is not always possible, or indeed advisable.
Not having the right device has consequences to the business as well. Nearly a quarter said that it impacted the bottom line. In a world where your competitors are also connected to the Internet and making the bid quickest can win the deal, can you afford for your staff not to have the right equipment? There is also a subsequent impact on IT resources, without a clear policy and defined guidelines IT service teams can be inundated with calls to support mobile devices.
BYOD has a tendency to exacerbate that support problem. Employees do not understand the dividing line between business and personal. From the company point of view an employee with a device that isn’t working impacts the business and needs to be resolved. But what if not working simply means the employee cannot stream their favourite TV show when on the move? It’s hardly a business issue but if employers don’t issue clear guidance as to what is or isn’t supported, users will continue to push the boundaries.
In recent years we have seen several changes in the way that companies deliver mobile devices into the hands of its employees. BYOD, CYOD and corporate device being the three main ones. The survey does not identify what policies the companies use. Without access to the raw data, and probably a wider data set, it would be hard to draw conclusive proof.
The business process inefficiencies have a secondary effect on staff morale. 10% of the IT leaders saw the impact of not properly equipping staff as an HR issue. This feels that those IT leaders, granted a minority are playing the blame game.
IT Leaders need to work with all department heads in an organisation, understanding their challenges so they can offer technology solutions. They should be building bridges, firing shots.
If, as the anecdotal evidence suggests, this leads to loss of employees or a hindrance on winning the talent war then this is serious. However, companies will need to confirm during their exit interviews whether this is the case. Having conducted and discussed output from many exit interviews my own anecdotal evidence would suggest that while a poor device can be used as a reason for leaving it is rarely the fundamental issue behind a move.
A higher percentage (14%) revealed that the devices used can impact the company brand or reputation. This is in fact more likely. Customer facing staff using dated or inferior equipment while trying to sell a high value solution can send a poor message to potential clients. This is especially the case where companies are now seeking greater flexibility from their suppliers. If a salesman moans about the restrictions on his equipment hindering his ability then this can have an impact on the perception of the company.
In general the questions asked of employees tends to be around the technology solutions used in the company and devices are only a small part of that. Software used on systems is critically important. Software needs to both deliver a good user experience but also provide the functionality that employees need to carry out their jobs. More and more software companies are delivering mobile apps for their customers staff, though the UX varies between them and the functionality is not always aligned to specific roles.
Does the BYOD trend increase the demand on IT and impact the efficiency of the business? The inference is that it has always increased staff morale as they choose and own their own device. Yet if the corporate software and management solutions provided by the company hinder their experience or even just don’t work then it might have the reverse affect.
In the week of Infosec Europe, security was also raised as an issue. The cause is poor management solutions with 21% saying that inferior device management put security at risk. While there are solutions out there, it seems that companies are either applying it poorly or not applying it at all (45%). This is a concern but shows that the problem yet again lies beyond the device itself. Poor implementation of MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions can impact business efficiency in other ways. It can affect access to cloud resources and hinder remote working and collaboration.
Interestingly 75% of businesses surveyed either managed devices themselves or had a vendor help them manage them. The minority either had no management or were managed by the users themselves, though one might consider those to be the same thing sometimes.
Overcoming the 3 big barriers with DvaaS
According to 44% of respondents in organisations the major barriers are:
- Capital cost
- Device management
BT IT Services believe that they can offer solutions to overcome these through DVaaS ( Devices as a Service). Jamie Ford, MD digital, product & strategy – BT Business and Public Sector, summarises the report by saying: “Technology has been central to business for decades, so having the latest device isn’t a case of keeping up with the Joneses, it’s all about having the best tool for the job. The impact of not having the right technology – particularly devices – in place can be far reaching and have a significant impact on businesses.
“As the research highlights, capital cost, integration and management are often the biggest barriers, but – like the software market – the devices market has changed significantly, and we’re increasingly talking about ‘Devices-as-a-Service’ (or DVaaS). This is a cost effective way of ensuring that employees have the latest devices, and everything is managed and continually updated, with companies paying a monthly fee – in much the same way as cars are now procured.The benefits to businesses of this approach are reduced IT overheads, more fluid budgets and more productive and motivated employees who are able to collaborate and work more freely in different environments.”
What this means is that BT and one assumes EE, now the merger is complete, can offer a complete integrated solution across the technology stack. This covers all device types including PC, Laptop, Smartphone and tablet. The question is whether this complete solution is one that companies find attractive and want to purchase from a single supplier?
It is disappointing that BT did not consider the wider picture in this. The elements are there in the research to extrapolate that device choice is a mere fraction of a technical strategy. Companies that look merely to opt for a device need to consider other areas of the business impacted by this and what full technology stack for mobility should look like.
It is surprising that the output of the research has focused so narrowly. DVaaS, is another acronym for business people to forget. What is needed is a holistic technical strategy that considers all the factors including such things as HR, Software, Security, device management and devices themselves. While BT IT Services may have the capability of delivering these, it perhaps needs to demonstrate better that it is thinking beyond just DVaaS.
Companies that do not have a technology strategy that considers all aspects of devices devices are putting their companies at risk from security breaches. Not only this but it may affect their bottom line through business efficiency and impacting their chances of retained and employing talent.