Five Questions With: Chris Poe

Chief technology officer of Atrion Networking Corp. talks about the company’s “Bring Your Own Device” information sessions and the risks and benefits of a bring your own device to work environment. More

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Five Questions With: Chris Poe

COURTESY ATRION NETWORKING
"These personal devices, be they smartphones or tablets, have become an extension of who we are as people, in many cases. They are our link to the rest of the world."
Posted 9/12/12

Chris Poe is the chief technology officer of Warwick-based IT services company Atrion Networking Corp.

As chief technology officer, Poe heads Atrion’s efforts aligning its business strategy with new and emerging technology offerings.

In 2011, Poe launched the Atrion Technical Advisory Council, an organization that motivates peer-to-peer interaction and knowledge-sharing among Atrion’s clients in the IT space.

On September 14, the Technical Advisory Council is holding a “Bring Your Own Device” informational event. Poe talked to Providence Business News about the event as well as the benefits and dangers of a bring your own device environment.

PBN: Why did Atrion’s Technical Advisory Council focus on “Bring Your Own Device” for their Sept. 14th informational event?

POE: Atrion’s Technical Advisory Council is a group of technical leaders from our client and partner communities who come together to learn about, and share perspectives on, emerging or high profile trends that might impact organizations.

Today, with the degree to which mobile devices have essentially become pervasive in our society, the significant increase in the adoption of tablets and other consumer devices, as well as the blurring of the line between “personal” and “company” time, more and more people want to be able to leverage one device for both personal and professional use.

Many organizations embrace this today, even if just to some small degree by allowing personal devices to access corporate email. However, while there clearly are productivity gains to be had by allowing employees to be reachable virtually any time and for them to take advantage of “working moments” – versus 9-5 working hours – where they can respond to that email while in the check-out line at the grocery store, there is far more opportunity to maximize impact of mobile technologies for business use.

There are a myriad of risks and considerations associated with embracing BYOD possibilities that stifle the degree to which these possibilities are even explored. In fact, for many organizations it’s just plain easier to say “NO, we aren’t confident that we understand all of the risks, so we’ll just sit this one out.”The intent of this event is to bring people together to discuss the challenges and possibilities in an open forum, hopefully helping to demystify the space and to identify where we might be able to help one another.

PBN: Just how common is it for people to bring their own devices to work?

POE: These personal devices, be they smartphones or tablets, have become an extension of who we are as people, in many cases. They are our link to the rest of the world. They’re how we stay connected to the community. Think about how anxious you feel if you lose or forget your mobile phone someplace. This anxiety is because the way in which we are connected to the people in our lives has changed significantly. We expect to be connected in near-real-time to our community. This gives us great comfort. It is due to this that people want to leverage the device they are most comfortable with for purposes of being connected to work as well.

PBN: What is the biggest risk companies take when they allow workers to use company property for personal use?

POE: The risks are numerous and range from, but are not limited to, potential liability due to inappropriate or malicious use of the company-owned asset to loss or theft of company intellectual property. Both of those scenarios can be disastrous for an organization. Whether company owned or personal, the big problem is that these devices aren’t physically constrained to the office, thereby relinquishing the most effective control any organization can have over an asset. This is the fundamental issue with BYOD and related trends: CONTROL.

This is a very uncomfortable time for most IT departments because while we’ve always been responsible for information security and performance, traditionally that’s been a lot easier because we’ve had control of everything. With the advent of the cloud, and the ability for any consumer to provision IT services from the likes of Google and Drop-box to name a couple, IT’s ability to control things is reduced. Combine that with not having physical control of mobile devices and we find the end-user far more empowered than ever.

IT’s issue is that we’re still responsible for information security and performance, but a number of our levers for assuring these things are being taken away by trends like cloud and consumer mobile devices. Clearly, this presents considerable risk.

PBN: What is the biggest benefit of a BYOD environment?

POE: I think the biggest benefit to effectively embracing a BYOD environment is productivity. If all of the concerns can be addressed, then the possibilities can be embraced.

Today, more web content is consumed by mobile apps than by web browsers. And while most of these mobile apps are games or personal productivity tools on the consumer market, the fact that users are becoming more comfortable with interfacing with these modalities presents a tremendous opportunity for organizations to look at their businesses and innovate in ways that push the boundaries of what mobility can provide.

We need to think BIG here, but we can’t if we aren’t confident that we’ve managed the risks effectively.

PBN: Are there certain industries where a Bring Your Own Device system isn’t feasible? In the same token, are their industries where BYOD environments work particularly well?

POE: The better question is what are the specific considerations that must be addressed in order to embrace a BYOD approach in your industry.

There are approaches to dealing with just about any concern, however it is not often clear what all of the concerns are. Certainly industries with high levels of confidential information, such as healthcare, finance, and defense would need much more stringent policies and controls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible and that there aren’t considerable benefits to be garnered.

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