IBM, once known as on of the most straight-laced companies in the world, has jumped on the BYOD bandwagon with a level of enthusiasm rarely seen in such large and established enterprises. The company has big plans for BYOD – rolling out a program out that covers all 440,000 employees worldwide.
That’s a big challenge and one that Big Blue has yet achieve. However, the company currently has mobility solutions deployed to about a quarter of its workforce (120,000 users) two thirds of whom (80,000) are supplying their own devices and service plans. The company, which had been a predominantly BlackBerry shop, began to shift gears as iPhones and other devices began showing up in its offices.
While not a model for every company, IBM’s BYOD policies can serve as a great starting point.
Like many companies, IBM was initially hostile to the iPhone and other consumer technologies, but realized that users would continue to bring the Apple handsets and other personal devices into the office with or without the company’s official permission. As IBM’s CIO Jeanette Horan put it in a recent interview with CIO.com:
They will find the most appropriate tool to get their job done. I want to make sure I can enable them to do that, but in a way that safeguards the integrity of our business.
So what are some of the ways the Horan and IBM work to accomplish those goals?
First and foremost is user education and engagement. The company created a series of “secure computing guidelines” to ensure that users understand the principles of online and mobile security as well as the importance of keeping corporate data and documents secure. In addition, IBM is supplementing those core guidelines with additional “fit-for-business” briefs on specific consumer technologies.
The company is also creating internal solutions that mimic the ease and functionality of some consumer offerings. One example is a Dropbox-like storage solution that the company has available for some users.
Beyond policies, IBM employs mobile device management using its Tivoli Endpoint Manager platform and makes it clear to users that any personal device(s) they use is subject to being wiped if lost or stolen or when they leave the company. There is no getting around this policy. If employees use a device at work, it will be wiped if they are terminated for any reason (quitting, lay offs, being fired, or retiring).
Leveraging more IBM technology, the company installs its Lotus Traveler on user devices as a email and calendar solution rather than using a device’s built-in apps like the iPhone’s Mail and Calendar.
Horan wouldn’t be specific but indicated that IBM has yet to do a major VPN rollout for iOS or other mobile platforms though it is evaluating options. Similarly, beyond Lotus Traveler, which the company installs as a native app, the company has yet to decide on an internal app strategy but it seems to be focusing on HTML 5 web apps over native apps written for multiple multiple platforms.
While IBM is an example for larger companies when it comes to getting onboard with BYOD trend, the best lesson for others businesses to take away may be that a BYOD strategy doesn’t need to be fully formed when it is implemented to be a success. Launching a program in stages can be faster, easier, and allows companies recalibrate their goals as they move along.