Suncorp allows staff to BYO computers, tablets
IN what could prove to be a watershed moment for corporate Australia, financial services firm Suncorp will let thousands of employees use their personal computers, including Apple iPads, at work.
For the first time in its history, the organisation has decided not to refresh its corporate desktop fleet of about 20,000 PCs, supplied by Dell and Lenovo.
The BYO (bring your own) device program at one of Australia’s largest insurers means staff will be able to break free from the shackles of their company-issued PCs and plug in their personal laptops, tablets and smartphones into the enterprise network.
For the first time, it also means individual staff will have the power to decide on the device they want to use for work purposes.
“We’re actually moving to a fully virtualised environment and the goal is to allow any employee to bring that (own device) in,” Jeff Smith, chief executive of Suncorp’s business services division, told The Australian in an exclusive interview.
“We can supply you with desktops here, but if people want to bring in their Macs or other devices, then that’s their choice. People should use the device they feel the most productive in.
“It is part of Suncorp’s fundamental strategy to attract, develop and retain top talent and to give them a great place to work, and try to inspire them to do great things.” Mr Smith said Suncorp’s goal was not to have infrastructure be a constraint to people’s innovation and ingenuity.
The decision by Suncorp is a first and rare for a company that is part of a risk-averse community such as financial services. But Mr Smith said it was the way to go and the outcomes were critical to employee satisfaction and retention, not just in cost savings.
There will be no restrictions — products that ran on platforms by Microsoft, Apple, Google and others were all welcome, he said.
The company was adjusting to fast-changing consumer habits. Today 70 per cent of employees select a company-issued iPhone over a BlackBerry, Mr Smith said.
Suncorp supplies 1250 iPhones, 600 BlackBerrys and has approximately 700 personal devices that are activated by the Suncorp network.
Mr Smith’s goal is to have the IT environment ready for all workers to bring in their own devices by August.
Corporate PCs also would be virtualised, so they could have a longer shelf life, he said. “One thing that we’re not doing (is) we have about 20,000 desktops and we would have to go out and replenish that and this is the first year we have stopped,” he said.
But he would not reveal the savings the company made.
He said Suncorp would use a combination of Citrix and open source tools to create a virtualised and secure interface for BYO devices. This would ensure staff only had access to company-approved applications and information.
Citrix Australia began its BYO program in early 2009, when employees were given a $US2100 stipend to purchase machines equipped with anti-virus and support contracts every three years.
Suncorp has not decided if it will give workers an allowance to buy their own devices. To organisations that use security as a roadblock to BYO devices, Mr Smith said that notion was a furphy.
“You have to have a secure environment no matter what. What we want to make sure is that every device and application essentially has the equivalent of a digital certificate,” said Mr Smith, who connects to the corporate network via his virtualised iPad.
“We take security very seriously, but it’s not an excuse for saying your locked out internal environment is more secure than one that you make available for others. In fact, in a virtualised environment, you’re more secure.”
He would not reveal the cost savings derived from the BYO plan as it had to invest in data centre infrastructure to support the scheme.
Gartner principal analyst Lillian Tay said the biggest challenge in a BYO approach was policy framework. Organisations must ensure compliance, security and legal aspects are well addressed.
“For example, if data is resident on an employee-purchased PC, can the office say ‘I want to look into your device’? These issues need to be spelt out,” Ms Tay said.
She agreed that cost savings was not the main motivating factor for the BYO model. Rather, companies are looking how best to manage a range of devices — from tablets to smartphones — that staff want to use at work.
Changes in hiring patterns is also set to make BYO popular.
“There’s a change in the type of people that large organisations are hiring — more temp workers, contractors, and outsourcers.
“It’s important that your policies stay regardless of the type of people who come in,” Ms Tay said.
She said PC vendors would have to adopt a new approach to enterprise sales in a BYO environment.
“Desktop vendors will have to change their whole mindset … the way they sell to corporate has to change.
“They will need to have special prices for employees for other devices and influence individuals instead of the IT manager,” Ms Tay said.
Some organisations might have a list of approved products for employees to choose from, she said.
Sorce: The Australian IT 29/3/11