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Most companies approve of personal devices at work, survey says

More than six out of 10 companies allow or mandate the use of employee-owned mobile devices for work in order to increase productivity, according to a survey released Tuesday.

While the BYOD (bring your own device) push has been at the forefront of press coverage, the majority of companies still provide at least a subset of devices to employees. One third of companies strictly mandate which devices can be used for work purposes and don't allow any type of device provided by the employee, according to the survey conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), a nonprofit trade group.

The online survey of 502 U.S. IT and business executives was conducted in February. It also found that the most popular option, at 58 percent, was to have a mix of corporate-owned and employee-owned devices.

For 53 percent of those surveyed, the top reason for allowing employees to use or select their own devices was to increase productivity while employees are away from the office. Another reason was that employees like to use familiar devices.

Twelve percent of the respondents stated it was simply too difficult to stop employees from using their own devices.

CompTIA's report said that companies looking to maximize the benefits of a mobile device-enabled workforce must "look beyond simply which devices are used and re-examine business processes and workforce needs."

Companies should assess the specific needs of workers, rather than just deploying one device over another on a corporate-wide basis, said Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, at CompTIA.

"For maximum benefit, workflow changes will need to be considered prior to evaluating workforce needs. But this is not a trivial matter, and companies will need to weigh the cost of operational disruption and change management against the potential advantages," Robinson said in a statement.

Most companies, however, are not taking these steps, according to the survey. Most of the current activity revolves around devices - provisioning, securing and allowing access to existing systems.

According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the BYOD and enterprise mobility market is expected to grow at the rate of 15 percent annually, from $67 billion in 2011 to $181 billion by 2017.

Shipments of smartphones and tablets are expected to exceed shipments of desktops and laptops this year, according to MarketsandMarkets, but desktop/laptop shipments are holding steady rather than being replaced by the new devices.

"Enterprise behavior also suggests that mobile devices are being treated as add-ons, not replacements," the research firm stated.

According to CompTIA's survey, one third of companies surveyed still "strictly mandate" which devices can be used for work purposes and do not allow any type of employee-owned device. For another 8 percent of companies, employees provide their own devices, software and any other services.

When companies provide mobile devices to employees, 39 percent of them said it helped to standardize and consolidate IT support, while 31 percent said it was more cost effective to provide employees with devices rather than a stipend.

"This reasoning is contrary to the school of thought suggesting that BYOD can be a cost-savings move," Robinson said in the statement. "Best practices will emerge that may change the cost dynamics, but BYOD may be similar to cloud computing in that companies may find other compelling reasons beyond cost savings to pursue the strategy."

As more employees bring their own devices to work, they also want to use their own applications and cloud services, resulting in an industry shift toward not only mobile device management, but also mobile application management (MAM) software, CompTIA said.

Managing mobile devices has led companies to use a variety of strategies, and chief among them, at 49 percent, is exploring or implementing virtual desktops, according to the survey. VDI (virtual desktop infrsstructure) was followed by building custom mobile apps for business systems (29 percent) and moving business applications to a cloud model that can be accessed through a browser (28 percent).

"Twenty-four percent of companies report having a formal mobility policy, up just 2 percent over the past year," the report states. "However, the number of companies that plan to build a formal policy has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent over that time.

"Additionally, companies see increases across the board with regard to the departments involved in building policy, indicating a holistic view towards mobile practices," it stated.

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