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  • Nagaraj G N
    BYOD: An Issue Of Segmentation And Employee Lifestyle
    As employees bring in their own devices (BYOD), the cost of accommodating these devices into the enterprise could far outweigh the cost savings envisaged around not equipping the workforce with such devices. To be able to get the workforce to effectively deploy their personal devices to empower themselves in meeting their goals and objectives and taking on the both the enterprise landscape and personal challenges, heavy investments will be needed in infrastructure, security and other digital assets and services apart from those in planning, governance, monitoring and management of this way of life.

    Gen-Next India - both, the employable and getting ready to be employed in the next three year timeframe, are not digital natives but immigrants who in the last year have been responsible for the momentum consumerisation of IT has gained. Their attitude and way of life reflects in the kind of devices they carry, the kind of apps they download and the way they use them in their daily lives. It will require some serious imagination on our part to gauge and calibrate the attitude, culture and expectations the digital natives will carry to an enterprise as and when they join the employable resource-pool in the next 10-15 years.

    Today, every young Indian has a digital lifestyle as a result of the device proliferation and consumerisation of IT. This talent pool leaves digital footprints all over cyberspace that is indicative of their attitude, culture and lifestyle in general. These people look up such data in cyberspace to analyse, interpret and take decisions based on the digital footprints of others to decide the nature of relationship they would want to pursue.

    As these young people enter the enterprise from college, they will usher in their own way of life. Organisations that do not change to accommodate the culture of this talent pool and make them feel at home, will be able to leverage little to nothing from this educated, smart new generation. Don't be surprised if people are looking up their bosses on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare to assess them. If they don't find them there, don't be surprised if the interpretations manifest in behaviour that might seem bizarre to those not tuned in to this culture. Don't be surprised if in a brain-storming meeting a young one suggests something like, ,Download this, put it in SkyDrive, open the app, modify, scrap from there, click this, put together, check with you on Skype to see what you feel and then it's a go.'

    Having been in the BFSI sector, I can visualise some very senior people (some of them IT leaders) reacting to such a scenario with bewilderment and irritation if this were to occur in their meeting rooms. But, the fact is that it is inevitable and it will happen. And when it does, if enterprises react with irritation and bewilderment at such approach to work-life, the talent pool will look up with little respect towards the brand and the individuals who represent them. Gen-next will find very little in terms of alignment between their strong-suite characteristics that makes them productive and keeps them creative, and how they see the enterprise empowering them to excel. Enterprises see BYOD today as a way of getting in the new age talent pool and retaining them for the strength they bring in.

    Having said that, there are multiple challenges in going the BYOD way. Amongst numerous other issues around BYOD, the issue of segmentation of data and the subsequent life-cycle management of the same is a complex issue - one that does not have a solution. As data gets accessed using personal devices, content will be accessed not just to be consumed, but to actually action on the data that was rendered. These actions could result in the need to modify the rendered content or request for more enterprise data to add/modify/delete or create new data - all of this on the go and using personal devices. Editing and creating content will need a store-edit-review-collaborate-dispatch cycle to be enabled locally on the device. This is an issue with most enterprises who hate to see their data leave the enterprise network and enterprise storage structures.

    There is a need to segment data as enterprise and personal so that it can be governed by the enterprise policies to protect enterprise digital data assets and to cater to personal digital lifestyle and cultural needs of the workforce. This segmentation is a complex issue and has no clear cut solution. As long as the data comes from corporate database, this problem ceases to exist. The problem crops up as one uses word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, design creation, ideation (creation and documentation) and collaboration tools to create, edit and collaborate on content. Ability to segment such content at the time of creation is a complex problem to solve. A heady cocktail of features in content authoring tools, digital rights management integrated with some aspects of DLP and other document life-cycle management attributes, employee life-cycle management attributes (around roles and access rights) and IT security software attributes will need to be prepared to solve this issue. As a player in both enterprise and consumer space I hope Microsoft finds within itself the right recipe for this Long Island Iced Tea!

    The next problem in accommodating BYOD scheme is to provide a platform for workforce to go through the iterative cycle of content creation - review - co-creation - collaboration and then submission to corporate networks in a manner that can be governed and managed effectively and efficiently. My view is that an integrated approach between MDM, cloud storage such as SkyDrive / Dropbox / Google Drive and mobile apps can make this possible today. Microsoft, as a serious player in both enterprise and consumer space, is the right organisation to take on this challenge and provide solutions. So, I will stick with SkyDrive, for articulating the enterprise need in the remainder of this post.

    Some changes in SkyDrive will be required. Enterprises will need to subscribe for cloud storage in a manner that aligns with enterprise IT security policies. Microsoft's Cloud On Your Terms approach makes SkyDrive a good candidate for this solution, if they can pull the solution off. Each employee will need an account on SkyDrive with two logical partitions (similar to C and D drive on desktops and laptops); one where all enterprise data will get stored and the other where all personal data will get stored. One cloud storage account partitioned to create an enterprise cloud and a personal cloud for an employee. If the employee leaves, the data does not go away, as the organisation has administrative control on the storage cloud. When an employee leaves an organisation, similar to the way employee car policies and mobile policies work where the employee pays the WDV and carries the car/mobile device with them, Microsoft will need to provide for merging the enterprise logical partition into an enterprise pool post which the enterprise could give the personal cloud back to the exiting employee in a format where the exiting employee continues to use the SkyDrive account, in line with Microsoft's consumer offering.

    To prevent the corporate data from downloading to local mobile device storage, an integrated approach of accessing all data through an enterprise app integrated with MDM implementation will need to be done. When this employee joins another organisation that happens to be a Microsoft cloud customer (SkyDrive in particular), the technology will need to accommodate for creating the employee account with the new enterprise with similar partition logic and pull the new recruit's personal cloud as a partition into the corporate SkyDrive account. This keeps employees personal data persistent as employees transition organisations or even change roles (employee/customer/partner).

    The bigger problem though is of segmentation. Pure-play consumer organisations like Google might not be willing to solve this problem. Microsoft which plays both in enterprise and consumer space should take this problem up and resolve it. Doing so, Microsoft will be able to empower its customers to attract talent pool that can usher in creativity and agility into an enterprise. 

    Nagaraj G N is a acclaimed Business-Technology Leader who has played CIO roles at large enterprises, and brings over 18 years of hands-on experience in the area of technology strategy and business alignment of technology strategy. He has spent a large part of his career driving technology initiatives in the highly demanding BFSI space, helping build next generation banks and financial services companies such as HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and Reliance Capital group. He is also an avid blogger about business technology and being a practicing technology industry insider he brings a unique Business-cum-Technology perspective. He blogs with the aim of helping India Inc. better align technology trends and spends with business imperatives to generate technology-led business innovation.

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