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BYOD turns sysadmins into heroes

Intel China's IT boss on consumerisation

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Bring Your Own Device programmes can help to keep staff happy and turn IT bods into "heroes" but the hard RoI from spikes in productivity is unproven, according to Intel’s IT manager for China.

Liam Keating told media at Chipzilla’s Cloud Summit event in Bangkok this week that Intel has around 29,000 employee handsets to manage globally, 60 per cent of which are staff-owned.

However, although consumerisation is one of the chip giant’s four key internal focus areas for IT, he fell short of endorsing the classic mantra that BYOD equals productivity, which is used to justify most investments in such programs.

“People will publish productivity numbers saying you can be more productive on the road … but I don’t really know if you can correlate a hard dollar value to that,” he argued.

“There is an employee satisfaction piece to finishing an email on the train so you can spend more time with the wife and kids and dog at home though – it gives you an enhanced work/life balance, and it feels good to use a cool phone to get work done rather than carrying a large overweight [corporate] laptop.”

Intel deals with the complex and usually costly process of managing staff-owned devices by only allowing the use of operating systems and devices which meet a pre-defined list of basic criteria, Keating explained.

If a handset falls short then email, contacts and calendar may only be provisioned by a third party app, which acts as a “secure environment”, he added.

An extra layer of security is added because BYO devices are generally not allowed on the corporate network.

“You can download any app you want onto your phone but smartphones are a huge target for attacks – the phone doesn’t get onto our network,” he said.

“They can interact with the network, though. They can use the IM capabilities, interacting with an environment that looks like the network but isn’t.”

Keating admitted that a lot of work had gone into supporting IT consumerisation, especially co-ordinating with HR and legal teams to draw up agreements on what to do in the event of a device being compromised, for example.

“We have a lot of things on our plate so having to deal with these consumer devices was an irritant and many hoped initially they would just go away,” he added.

“But now we’ve proved we can do it and do it in a secure manner and the employees appreciated it.” ®

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