If hype is a reliable barometer of commercial opportunity, then the sales prospects for the channel stemming from the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend would surely be enough to keep every reseller in the UK in double-digit growth for years to come.
The BYOD trend (if, indeed, there is such a thing) is ubiquitous in the IT industry at the moment. So much so that it is already spaw-ning spin-off concepts - BYOS (bring-your-own-services), anyone?
But while the notion may be hard to escape, examples of enterprise rollouts of BYOD policies and all the attendant technology and services still seem a little thin on the ground.
But market watchers’ data seems to back the assertion that the bring-your-own trend is taking off, at least to some extent. According to a recent Gartner survey of mid-market and enterprise employees in Germany, Australia and the UK, 28 per cent of firms are already supporting user-owned devices. In the BRIC countries, this figure rises to 44 per cent.
Gartner research director Chae-Gi Lee claimed that uptake of BYOD, and concerns held about what the integration of user-owned devices will mean, differ between regions.
"Mature countries consider BYOD programmes as bringing with them legal and technical issues, whereas emerging countries see only technical issues,” he said. “Mature regions are more concerned with security and data privacy regulations for immature MDM [mobile device management] than emerging regions.”
An IDC study of CIOs in the US and Europe found that 45 per cent of IT chiefs provide some form of support for employees’ smartphones, with 42 per cent doing so for tablets. However, a third of CIOs claimed to provide no smartphone support whatsoever, with 44 per cent shunning tablet support.
Surely one of the biggest barriers to wider adoption of BYOD policies, and one of the biggest headaches for IT leaders in managing staff clients, is security. As a MDM vendor, MobileIron would seem to be ideally placed to cash in on the BYOD boom - should such a thing exist.
But Nigel Hawthorn, EMEA marketing director at the US-based vendor, claimed a security sell should act only as a beachhead from which VARs can launch sales of services and consultancy.
“The conversations might start with security, but that is only one aspect of what firms need. And security is a defensive thing,” he explained. “You need to be proactive and productive. [Once] the security has been sorted out, [it is about] ‘how can I get the right applications and documents to the right devices?’
“You can go on to assume a more positive and enabling role. Everyone who just talks about security is missing the real benefits of mobility. If [VARs] are seeing everything purely through the prism of security, then they might simply be putting in an MDM solution with standard settings and leaving it. But they can provide a managed or professional service - this is where the channel can add more value.”
One VAR that is actively pursuing BYOD sales opportunities is Equanet. The Dixons-owned reseller recently surveyed IT chiefs at 1,000 firms across the UK and found that an estimated 72 per cent of employees are already using their own devices in the workplace. Furthermore, 76 per cent of CIOs believe that personal devices boost staff productivity.
But just 14 per cent of firms surveyed by Equanet have formalised BYOD policies or initiatives in place. Fifty-four per cent do not actively encourage employees to use their own technology. Two thirds of UK companies do not currently offer any subsidy for user-owned devices, and 43 per cent do not ever intend to do so.
But Charles Barratt, new solutions development manager at Equanet, claimed the demand for BYOD is living up to the hype. “Last year was all about VDI, this year is BYOD,” he said. “Most of my time at the moment on pre-sales and delivery is [spent] on building BYOD architectures.”
Barratt agreed that the security solutions available to resellers and integrators have progressed beyond simply MDM.
“There are lots of different technologies out there that have evolved from MDM: mobile application management, content management. Often these are provided as a service. DLP [data leakage prevention] is also critical.”
“A lot of our BYOD engagements concern advisory services - we do not lead on technology. The opportunity is there for resellers to open up avenues of conversation.”
Third-party services firm Comms-care is also chasing BYOD spend, to which end it has become one of only a handful of UK partners to gain accreditation on Cisco’s Identity Services Engine [ISE] network security and device management technology.
The Cheshire-based firm is looking to ramp up sales through channel partners, and marketing director Richard Eglon claimed a managed services play is an ideal offering for end users looking to roll out BYOD policies.
“[ISE] is part of a managed service, and we can package it with other items such as remote monitoring, management of inventory on the network and optimisation [tools],” he said.
The Comms-care man claimed that BYOD adoption is living up to the hype in a way that technologies such as VoIP and cloud computing have perhaps not. If the channel can solve customers’ security conundrums, there is nothing to stop end users from buying into a bring-your-own policy, he asserted.
“The difference to me between IP telephony and BYOD is it is the consumer that is driving it and we are not waiting on the technology to catch up for it to work,” explained Eglon. “With BYOD, the technology and the infrastructure are already there, it is just that people are worried about security.”
Damovo is another integrator hoping to jump on the BYOD gravy train, and research commissioned by the company again suggests that UK plc is ill equipped to deal with the dawn of BYOD. After quizzing 100 UK CIOs of 1,000-seat-plus firms, the VAR found that 73 per cent are worried that the rise of user-owned devices in the workplace could cause their costs to skyrocket.
Concerns are centred on increased voice and data costs, and greater need for IT support. Security was seen as the biggest short-term cost, having been cited by 44 per cent of the survey’s respondents.
Glyn Owen, portfolio manager for Damovo UK, claimed his firm is “seeing a lot of interest” in BYOD adoption. The trend provides opportunities for both service and product-led sales, he claimed.
“There are consultancy opportunities at the front end,” he explained. “[Customers need to answer the] questions: what sort of device are you going to make available? What sort of applications - is it just corporate email or are there other line-of-business applications?
“They need to go through that and document their policies. Having satisfied that, there are opportunities to get into MDM and mobile application management.”
The Damovo man added that security technologies have improved greatly in recent years.
“MDM platforms have moved on considerably. At one time they were quite heavy handed and concentrated on the device. Most are now moving towards the concept of managing two identities: the corporate and the personal,” he said.
“Then you have tools such as context-aware management tools within the networks - who is this person and what are they trying to access? The key thing is, it is not the device you want to manage, it is the security issues around the corporate data and how they are controlled. It is becoming much more sophisticated.”
Given the oft-cited concerns about security, it is perhaps surprising to note that everyone ChannelWeb spoke to for this piece singled out the public sector as the leading vertical for BYOD opportunities. The health and education sectors, where doctors, consultants and lecturers may work itinerantly, were picked out as early adopters.
In the enterprise world, demand from senior management was cited as a key driver for adoption. And the channel should gear up for a spike in demand in the new year, according to Equanet’s Barratt.
“[BYOD] has traditionally been driven by the c-level, particularly in the post-Christmas period, when they have the latest iPads,” he explained.
Barratt added that for smaller resellers hoping to cash in on the BYOD trend, working with companies with complementary skills may be crucial to driving sales.
“From a channel point of view, you may have a reseller that is fantastically strong in infrastructure but not so much in security, and vice versa,” he added. “The world needs more partnerships.”
Comms-care’s Eglon asserted that BYOD is here to stay, predicting that in a few years’ time, the norm may be to give new employees a budget of, say, £600, and instruct them to equip themselves with the technology they need.
“We have everything in place. What [employees] want is not to get frustrated that they cannot use a device that they are not used to using,” he said. “I think we are going to see a total change in people’s habits.”