Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
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Brian Riggs | March 10, 2014 |


BYOD Policies Need to Involve UC

BYOD Policies Need to Involve UC More enterprises are supporting BYOD, but decision-makers show a reluctance to include UC clients on the devices.

More enterprises are supporting BYOD, but decision-makers show a reluctance to include UC clients on the devices.

Last year Ovum surveyed a bunch (more than 1,400 qualifies as a bunch, right?) of IT decision makers at large enterprises, asking about their current and future adoption of UC solutions and services. A number of Ovum analysts, yours truly included, have sliced and diced the data to understand attitudes toward UC within specific countries like Australia, the UK, and the US, as well as across various industries like financial services and insurance. (Warning: The data is contained in reports on the Ovum Knowledge Center, so you can only get access if you're a client.)

I've been combing over the data lately, so while it's fresh in my mind I thought I'd draw attention to an interesting point in the area of UC and mobility. It has to do with the responses we got around companies' BYOD policies and how support for mobile UC client software factors into those policies.

I don't know about you, but when the topic of mobility comes up, the conversation I hear is often around two points. One is whether or not to devise a proper BYOD policy: Should you issue mobile devices to employees so IT can provide the proper security for them and support the business apps running on them? Or should you let employees bring any device to work that they want, because they're going to anyway?

In the Ovum study, 46% of the 1,400+ IT folks responding said their company currently supports employee-owned tablets and smartphones so long as they're from a list of officially supported devices. Another 27% said that that within the next two years they will support company-approved employee-owned devices.

The figures were somewhat different when people were asked about supporting any and all devices that employees bring to the office (that is, devices that IT had not specifically sanctioned). Only 27% said they would support these, while 37% said they planned to within two years.

Source: Ovum and Dimension Data

So far so good. The survey confirms what we already know: Not all companies have a BYOD policy in place, but some do. Many are in the process of developing one, and others don't plan to ever go the BYOD route.

The other mobility-related topic I regularly encounter is the features and functionality of mobile UC clients. Until recently, mobile UC client software took a back seat to UC clients for the desktop. This is changing, with more and more UC solutions developers taking a "mobile first" approach to UC software development. But the feature sets of many mobile UC clients delivered thus far pale in comparison to their desktop cousins. Regardless, mobile UC clients are available from all major and most minor solution developers, and they're being actively adopted by their customers.

But things get interesting when you map mobile UC clients that large enterprises have adopted to the type of mobile device that their IT department supports.

More than 60% of the 1,400 IT decision makers said they supported corporate IM clients on employees' tablets and smartphones, but only if these were company-owned devices. Just over 40% said that they supported UC clients and Web conferencing software on employees' tablets and smartphones, but with the same caveat: They need to be devices that the company owns and has issued to employees.

When asked if IT would support mobile UC software on employee-owned devices, the number of affirmative responses plummeted. Nearly 25% of respondents would support corporate IM clients on employee-owned devices so long as it was a device type that IT approved, while only about 15% would support UC clients and Web conferencing software on company-approved, employee-owned devices.

And when asked if they'd support mobile UC clients on "any employee-owned smartphone/tablet"--that is, devices that IT had not specifically sanctioned--the number dwindled further. Hardly more than 10% said they'd support UC clients on any device, while only 5% would support UC clients and conferencing software on them.

Source: Ovum and Dimension Data

The problem here is the difference between the number of large enterprises allowing employees to bring their own mobile devices to work and the number of large enterprises supporting UC apps on them. For example, while 46% of respondents said they let employees use any IT-sanctioned devices for work, only 15% will load a UC client on the devices. And while 27% said employees can use any device they like at work, only 5% will support a Web conferencing or soft phone client on it.

I suppose this shouldn't be surprising. Companies' BYOD policies tend to be new and in a state of flux. Many IT departments are dipping a toe in the BYOD water before taking a plunge, and they support a wide range of corporate apps on the mobile devices employees bring to work. Also, BYOD policies tend to be concerned more about managing and securing the device, as opposed to deploying and managing each and every kind of app running on them.

Finally, there is not always an obvious relationship between a company's approach to BYOD and its deployment of UC on the other side of things. However, as BYOD policies mature, it will behoove enterprises to begin expanding the set of business applications--UC applications among them--that IT deploys and supports on the personal mobile devices employees are allowed to use in the workplace.

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