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CIOs Have to Say Yes to CEOs

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The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is no longer a 'trend'. It has happened. Recent predictions from Gartner claim that global PC shipments will decline this year as tablet shipments increase, and there is anecdotal evidence that the majority of employees have accessed company-sensitive information on their personal device. Just look at any desk around you in your office and you will spot personal devices scattered among traditional work tools.

Whereas the BYOD phenomenon has previously been associated with a younger generation coming into the workforce, disrupting existing workflows and tools deployed in an office environment, it actually isn't. In fact, increasingly, it is the C-suite that is driving BYOD.

Picture the situation: a young recent starter asks the IT department to allow him to connect his Android smartphone to the VPN and for his work emails to be accessible via his device. The natural response from the IT department is to decline the request and point him towards company-mandated devices such as a BlackBerry.

Now imagine the CEO of the same company receives an iPad for her birthday and demands for it to be connected to corporate email and Board-level presentations made available via the device for her to review while on the go. IT cannot ignore this request and have to make it work.

The CIO and his IT department have a tough job in today's technologically converging world. While they are responsible for the control and deployment of every application and report, they increasingly also have to be the enablers of this brave new world.

Where the CIO thought he had the backing of the CEO when it came to controlling the younger workforce - millennial generation - with their disruptive ideas, bringing their own personal devices into work and demanding intuitive next-generation tools, he is, in fact, getting the pressure from both ends of the spectrum. And being forced to find a solution.

Now, the IT department still owns data quality, availability and security. And the CIO has the responsibility for managing these and reducing the risk of a security threat. Which is why they need to evolve as quickly as the technology industry does, working closely with the next generation of workers to manage the transition, instead of trying to control it.

We are used to using advanced, intuitive and personalised technology in our home lives, and expect to see this replicated in our working lives too. There are multiple benefits in evolving working technology tools and practices, but the CIO - for good reasons - tends to let the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. The main concern is obviously security. But if even the CEO (with whom the ultimate responsibility lies) is demanding her latest gadget be connected, then the CIO needs to find a solution.

One obvious aspect is rolling out security across all devices. Given the number of tablets, smartphones and even 'phablets' being launched on a monthly or even weekly basis, however, this soon proves tricky to implement.

Having browser-based tools that are agnostic and ubiquitous reduces the security headache for CIOs, while enabling the CEO to use her tablet for work-based tasks and activity. All information is stored in-memory, so is kept off the device when not connected, minimising the security risk.

The benefits are numerous, whether driving productivity as employees are more inclined to use their personally tailored devices and preferred tools to increase output, lowering overall costs for companies as they don't have to invest in company-mandated devices, or even making the company more appealing to new recruits (especially in the millennial generation) who are looking for an open-minded company.

So, while the CEO may not have the wider benefits front of mind when she turns up to work and hands her new iPad to the CIO for set-up, she is, in fact, helping to transform the organisation's IT practice and policies. Otherwise, it will be one rule for senior management, and another rule for the rest of the company. And, in our converging, connected world where structures are fluid and constantly evolving, we need to ensure our organisations are equally as flexible to accommodate this change.