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Riding the wave of devices - BYOD's impact on your IT department

|May 12|magazine14 min read

by Safi Obeidullah, Director, Sales Engineering at Citrix A/NZ

Read other articles in Business Review Australia's May issue

If you’re in the ocean watching a huge wave come towards you there’s typically two options. You can turn back and try and fight your way back to the shore or you can take a deep breath, brace yourself and go with the flow. Right now there’s a huge wave of devices flooding the market and employees expect the flexibility to choose their own.

New trends have taken hold and demanded changes in the workforce as these consumer devices find their way into the enterprise. The biggest challenge for the IT department involves security and compliance issues. We are also seeing enterprise users find their way around IT by accessing the applications they prefer to use over the web.

The role of IT

As consumer trends blur with the enterprise space, we’ve seen people’s expectations of their IT department shift. If they can perform a certain task on their device at home – they expect the same or even more at work.

So in this changing world of user behaviours and expectations, what is the role of IT? The complexity level for IT departments has grown significantly as people expect a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) enterprise environment. IT needs to change its approach to be more of an enabler and stop fighting user trends but in a manner that still meets the necessary security and compliance issues.

End users are often security indifferent, whereas IT professionals are very conscious of it. If people are downloading an application from the app store and deploying it on their desktop and iPad or if they are sharing photos or files from one device to another – they are rarely thinking of the security implications.

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If CIOs take the approach of enforcing security and restricting use it could create a negative backlash from the staff and that’s only going to make the situation worse. So the challenge then, from an IT standpoint is how do you enable, how do you do it securely, and how do you do it seamlessly and make it cost effective?

Just like we are seeing a tremendous rate of change on the consumer side – we are actually seeing IT reinvent itself even faster. There are some companies that stand out like beacons of light – building their own secure internal platforms and then delivering apps and content to staff via that platform.

Not every business has the financial means or the time to create this type of custom built technology solution – but application virtualisation allows companies to offer this type of secure delivery system at a cost-effective price. A wide range of applications can be deployed at once across different devices – giving users the freedom they desire. The beauty of this type of delivery model is it enables IT departments to bring users back into a secure and more easily managed environment.

Adopt a new approach

It creates unique opportunities for CIOs and IT professionals to switch to more of a governance style approach whilst still providing the security and compliance. Virtualisation is also a great way of enabling mobile work styles, particularly app virtualisation. Companies can combine the benefits of cloud technology and use both an internal premise based solution and an off-premise solution.

In basic terms, app virtualisation allows IT departments to enable and govern users at the same time by separating the app from the operating system. This means the application delivery system can be remotely accessed by every approved user, and is made available via one platform rather than being installed on each individual device and machine.

There are also cost benefits from an IT management perspective because there is only one administration point. The apps are easier to patch and upgrade and you can roll out larger company-wide updates much faster due to centralised control. It also allows the company to digitise many paperwork processes and securely save all of the information in one easy to access location.

Enable BYOD program

It also opens up the opportunity to offer a secure BYOD program. Windows apps and customised apps can be housed in the one space. You can then choose to offer employees a choice of devices under a company IT program or roll out devices purposefully selected by the IT department to match specific roles.

This type of progressive IT environment enables a mobile workforce and a more streamlined working culture. Giving staff access to their desktop via their iPad allows workers to access business systems at all times. We recently saw Bayside City Council in Melbourne roll out Citrix XenApp for 100 users and they now plan to move another 400 staff over to the platform.

The biggest benefit they have seen is that staff is completely mobile and are accessing their applications from home and remote devices which has improved productivity. Users do not have to fill in as many council forms when they get back to the office and have immediate access to all documents while they are offsite. 

VPN connections are not required and staff do not need to rely on council computers. Bayside City Council has enabled their users to bring their own devices, further showcasing the abilities and importance of the IT team to meeting organisational objectives.

Being an IT enabler allows employees to feel confident in the technology they are using on a day-to-day basis. The rate of IT change is accelerating so quickly that an agile IT platform is vital so that companies can implement changes and adapt. If you have a solid platform, it’s much easier to go with the flow and ride the next wave of technology that comes towards you.