BYOD – more than just a pretty tablet

Bring your own device (BYOD) is much more than an acronym; it’s a transformative movement that is changing Australian workplaces, workflows and fundamental operations dramatically.

Every morning of the work week, professionals around the country are walking into their office buildings with their morning coffee in one hand, and a tablet in the other hand. It’s like a new ‘coffee and tablet combo’ – two workplace essentials. We understand the necessity for a morning caffeine hit, but why the tablet? Is it for the anytime, anywhere convenience of being able to play Angry Birds – today’s answer to Solitaire – during times of necessary procrastination? Is it a status symbol?

The truth is that increasingly professionals are utilising their own tablet devices for work purposes. And why is that? Despite badgering bosses and IT departments for company-wide tablet adoption, these professionals are impatient and are taking it upon themselves to get more productive.

Before getting too carried away, a tablet is just a device – an object – albeit a slim, sleek and stylish one that is enjoying a massive wave of adoption. But it can only be as useful or useless as we allow it to be. Its ability to become a highly valuable, productivity tool only becomes real when it becomes an effective conduit for content.

It’s as simple as (tablet + content)workflow = a transformation in productivity.

The fundamental nature of the tablet (touch, portability, shareable form-factor, personal connection, instant-on, never-crashes, long battery life) when combined with easy, secure access to company content provides a potent combination for productivity. Add the final secret weapon to the mix (workflow), and you have the makings of a potential productivity transformation.

So quite literally, hardware is just half of the equation. How it is integrated into a corporate ecosystem is the other, less talked about component. No, it’s not as sexy, but it’s perhaps the more critical discussion.

Unlocking content and process to provide efficient access to corporate resources – that’s today’s challenge. A March 2012 J.P. Morgan CIO survey found that mobile integration tied for second place (48 per cent) with server virtualization when the CIOs were asked to name major projects that are ongoing or recently initiated.

So let’s assume you have decided to bring your tablet to work, to access greater mobility benefits and get more done. You probably already have your email, calendar and iTunes all connected-up (along with a few apps and bedtimes stories for your toddler), perhaps you’ve even accessorised it with a fancy case. But before you’re ready to rock, before you become part of the knowledge worker elite, just how are you going to turn your tablet into a tool for engaging and creating, rather than just consuming?

When you talk about adopting tablets for work, there’s something we call the Tablet Trifecta: Email, calendar and content. Everyone sets up the first two easily, but finding a solution to get access to work content (documents, spreadsheets, images, etc) on your tablet, can be frustrating.

The bottom line is this: Allowing BYOD, or even deploying tablets to employees, without having a content solution, can be futile. Organisations need to recognise the increasing BYOD trend and even if they are not ready to commit to a company-wide tablet adoption program, they should at least be prepared to introduce collaboration technologies specifically designed for the challenge of stretching office boundaries beyond the desktop.

Open standards and flexible systems are the first step in this direction, but it also takes a savvy IT department and leadership to empower an increasingly mobile workforce to work together securely and efficiently.

Integrating a tablet into your workflow is worth it, because it actually makes some previously hideous tasks almost delightful. But you have to be purposeful and committed to get the benefits.

Don’t be fooled by device hype, or put off by the content challenges. Tablets are already changing the way you and your teams work, and they will change corporate culture for the better. But, like anything that is worthwhile, it takes work and patience – one swipe back, to go two swipes forward.

Barry Costin is sales director for Alfresco APAC

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