Consumer-owned tablets are making their way into enterprises everywhere – whether those companies are ready for them or not.
If there’s one thing companies should know by now, it’s that turning a blind eye to something doesn’t make it go away. That’s definitely true when it comes to enterprise use for today’s most popular mobile devices.
In fact, according to a new report from Juniper Research, nearly 150 million people will use personal smartphones or tablets for business purposes this year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s practically nothing when you consider the report also projects that number to reach 350 million by 2014. In other words, these predictions could be off by as much as 50 million, and still double the current number for employee-owned enterprise tablets and smartphones.
(Note: When I say “tablets” I essentially mean iPads. Apple’s product made up over 97% of enterprise tablet activations in Q1. This race isn’t even close.)
So it’s even more surprising that so many companies still refuse to implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in their organizations. OK, so maybe it’s not totally surprising, as concern over security of corporate communications and resources is understandable. But at this point, judging by the numbers, simply saying no to BYOD doesn’t draw a line in the sand for companies; it only puts their heads in it. After all, as the report’s author Nitin Bhas states, “BYOD has become an ‘inevitable’ trend for the enterprise.”
With that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprising to start seeing more companies begin to focus less on the concerns around enterprise BYOD, and start paying more attention to the business benefits that so many employees have already realized. For example:
Accessibility – While companies continue to provide staff with laptops for work, employees rarely carry them around wherever they go. People these days are far too accustomed to staying connected at all times and accessing information no matter where they are. If smartphones or iPads allow them to maintain that level of connectivity for work purposes, they’re going to take advantage of that, whether their companies frown on it or not. In the end, good workers – particularly mobile ones – will opt for whatever makes them more productive.
Flexibility – I’ve written before that iPads are quickly becoming the preferred device for salespeople on the road. Tablets have a lightweight design that’s easy to travel with, and they’re ideal for impromptu meetings. Reps can carry iPads with them at all times, even at conferences and events, and the device’s “instant-on” capability allows them to launch presentations and demos in a matter of seconds. They can also utilize PowerPoint for tablets to give impressive, intimate presentations in small groups, without the need for a projector. All of these factors help to make a salesperson’s life a lot easier, which usually translates into more business for their companies.
Mobility – Obviously, smartphones and tablets are great for mobile workers – that’s why they insist on using them. But these devices also help make the companies themselves more mobile, which is necessary for any growing business looking to trump the competition. Creating a more mobile-friendly environment can have several cost and logistical benefits as well, from reducing the need for in-person meetings to streamlining access of corporate training content and company updates.
The Juniper report estimates that in two years, nearly a quarter of all consumer-owned tablets and smartphones will have some sort of business function. Honestly, that number seems a bit conservative to me. Given the high costs required for companies to issue tablets to employees themselves, I’d expect the BYOD concept to only gain more steam in the coming years. And as a result, companies will have no choice but to become more accepting of them within the enterprise.