What Does BYOD Mean for the Future of the Workplace?

 

While reading an email from the CTO recently regarding our BYOD program, I found myself contemplating the future of the workplace.

If you work at HQ or a major campus, the future probably looks a lot like the present.  However, the majority of the workforce is dispersed among branches and small offices.  What will that look like in the coming years?

Today, many work from home full- or part-time, offices have touch-down spaces for mobile workers and (increasingly) IT departments are shedding the cost of devices by enabling BYOD.

Related article:
The Office isn’t Dead; Just Evolving

So, where will cost-cutting, simplification and the mobile revolution lead us next?

If the consumer world is our guide, then get ready for the emergence of the corporate hot spot.

It makes perfect sense.  You and your device are already being authenticated and selectively connected to your slice of the corporate Intranet via BYOD policy, all of the apps are abandoning ship for the cloud and the only wires left in the office are the power cords on the coffee maker and toaster oven you’re hiding under your desk.

Add to these corporate trends the ever increasing speed and quality of public Internet access, and you have the foundation for a real revolution in corporate culture.

Of course, there will always be those that resist change, and the first objection you’ll likely hear will be around security.  How will we keep our sensitive information away from would be hackers?  How will we keep out all those viruses and bots?  Can you imagine our workers connecting directly to the Internet?!?!?

Early in my career, I worked with a segment of the Federal government that operated on the assumption that the only real security was “air gap” security.  In other words, if it was connected…it was vulnerable.

It turns out, that’s a pretty accurate premise.

As a result, corporate IT spends a significant amount of time and money securing their remote locations.  MPLS VPN connections, local FWs, Employee/Guest SSIDs and other setups are employed to create a walled garden in which remote employees can work away without a care.

We need only recall the story of the Trojan War to find the flaw in that plan, though.

While the modern-day version has no wooden horses, it has a wide array of shiny objects that are rapidly finding their way onto corporate networks.

Even if you don’t support BYOD yet, you still likely have employees taking their corporate devices down to Starbucks for a non-fat, no-whip hazelnut macchiato and some email during one of those marathon conference calls.

You’re generally comfortable with these concepts because you have device profiles, user profiles and a plethora of other mechanisms to ensure that even if you let the wooden horse inside the walls, the Greek soldiers stay locked inside.

So, if mobility of our workers is becoming the norm, and they’re going to be working from home, the hotel and that Starbucks, then why continue managing those workers across 2 paradigms?

Why not extend that norm to be, well, the norm?

Define your policies and security around the assumption that workers will be accessing your systems remotely, and focus on securing your DCs and large campuses.

A solid Internet connection, some cloud managed APs and a well maintained captive portal will give your branch workers everything they need with less stress on IT and a healthy monthly savings.  Maybe you can even use the extra to fund decent office coffee and keep those employees off that hot spot down the street.

I know it sounds farfetched, but to quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “I am not crazy, my mother had me tested.”

The world is changing fast.  You can either lead that change and shape the outcome, or try to ignore it and find yourself being dragged along later.

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.