Businesses must accommodate demanding tech-savvy employees who want to bring their own devices (BYOD) to work, or risk having a sub-standard workforce, says Marc Randall, senior vice president and general manager at Avaya Networking.
"If you don't embrace BYOD, you're not going to be able to attract employees. If you're too restrictive, it won't be the number one reason they leave, but they will leave because they feel you're not innovative enough. And without BYOD (and mobility), the organisation won't be productive enough and then you will be letting people go."
As a networking vendor Randall has an interest in helping companies adopt BYOD, but according to a recent Gartner report, the trend is real. BYOD demand is highest in countries with more Generation Y workers who, Gartner says, are putting pressure on employers to embrace mobility and allow them remote access to the network environment.
"The new generation of employees sees the flexibility (of technology), and expect that same flexibility at work. There is a blend of work and play in this new generation.
"We're right in the middle of three global technology trends - BYOD, collaboration, and the cloud - that are forcing enterprises to evolve or get beaten up," Randall told IT Pro on a visit to Australia.
Randall goes as far as suggesting employees will judge employers by a new "cloud easy" benchmark - think Google Docs, Dropbox and other consumer-friendly products, he says.
"Companies that embrace BYOD will get more productivity, have happy customers, and happier employees.
"Just two years ago, a new employee would join and the IT department would configure a laptop or PC, put protection on it and deliver it to a particular standard that the organisation was happy with. The access method to connect to the internet was very device-oriented, with multiple logins to get to the applications.
"But this approach is based on the device, not the human. Now, with smartphones, tablets, and an Apple (fan) base, employees already have a bias for what they want to work on."
Some companies have adopted a hybrid BYOD model where employees receive an allowance to buy their own device but the company installs applications and levels of access.
However, Dr Kevin McIsaac, analyst at research firm IBRS says BYOD is blown out of proportion.
"I don't believe the younger generation wants BYOD. I first heard it seven years ago. They don't care. They are so computer literate, they will use whatever is at hand."
McIsaac maintains flexibility is more important to younger people than BYOD. "They are interested in working flexible hours, or working from home more. And while at work, using Facebook, Twitter or other social media. What's the [organisational] policy on that?"
He says executives, not incoming Gen Ys, are driving BYOD.
"It's the executives and board members that want to make [it] work."
Regardless, Randall suggests having a single 'fingerprint' for each employee that allows access to the network no matter what device they are on. "We shouldn't care about the device."
Far from creating more work for the IT department, once authentication rules and access levels are determined, "you have the rules so you know the position of the individual" and this will ultimately reduce the workload because processes will be automated.
However, businesses do need to know what operating system a device is using, he says. "Microsoft, Apple, Android - make sure you have security capabilities for all of them.
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