Twenty years ago a new term was introduced into the lexicon: smartphone. It was originally used to describe AT&T’s “PhoneWriter Communicator,” but it quickly became the preferred nomenclature for mobile phones that could also handle other functions such as email and calendaring. And while most people think of these devices as great tools for personal use, they have also fundamentally transformed how businesses structure their technology.
At the heart of the mobile/business intersection are smartphones and tablets that employees bring to work themselves, which has given rise to the term “BYOD” – Bring Your Own Device. A decade ago the idea of a company letting employees provide their own technology to access important corporate information would have been absolutely unthinkable. For starters, the security implications would have made the idea a non-starter in just about every boardroom in the world. Mix in the technical challenges of supporting multiple devices and platforms, and it might as well have been an idea from the distant future.
So what happened?
In simple terms, employee behavior forced management to adapt to the reality that (according to some studies) more than 90 percent of people were bringing at least one personal device to work. In the face of that level of adoption, companies had no choice but to support the iPhones and Surface tablets that their employees were already using.
Needless to say, this has had a profound effect on how companies design systems to distribute, store, and protect their valuable information. Just about every software package being created today is designed to be usable on mobile devices, tablets,and laptops no matter where an employee happens to be working. IT departments have also learned to “think beyond the firewall” when it comes to data security, so the idea of someone accessing sensitive financial information from home is no longer viewed as an unacceptable risk. And cloud access has made it easy for anyone to upload and save important data, and even distribute it to others within the organization.
Like it or not, BYOD is here to stay, and software developers need to incorporate it into everything we do. Mobile is no longer a luxury or an option – it’s a necessity for employees who need to get the information they need no matter where they are. Mobile has also fundamentally blurred the lines between home and office (and between work hours and off-hours), so forward-thinking organizations are deploying, not discouraging, technologies that work the way real people work rather than how we worked in the past.