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Comment: Why BYOD finds more takers in APAC than US and Europe

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) caught attention in 2012 and its adoption by companies is expected to reach its peak by 2014. According to a survey by Strategy Analytics, BYOD is growing much faster in Asia Pacific than Europe or US. BYOD started more as  HR appeasement than a technological need. However, in APAC, BYOD is encouraged by the nature of its changing social fabric, which in turn is changing the economic dynamics too. Moving forward, BYOD can no more be just an HR issue, but a force from changing technological environment. It’s difficult to say if BYOD is bringing about those technological changes or vice versa.

BYOD, as of now, doesn’t save any money. Varied OS, varied brands put pressure on the IT help-desk of organisations and more turn-around time for a solution means both time and money lost. Primarily, BYOD is a function of the smartphones and tablets, which is now being extended to notebooks. These devices, majorly Android and Apple iOS have been designed more for personal use rather than enterprise solutions. But extended to notebooks, it brings in licensing issues, which organisations have been blind to. Most of the personal devices – assuming all are loaded with legal software – have ‘personal’ or ‘home’ licensed software and not the ‘business’ or ‘enterprise’ license. If an individual is using the devise for work, owners and organisations are breaching the license.  Coming back to adoption of BYOD, another pertinent question is whether it is blurring lines between work life and personal life. Irrespective of the answer, reality is that it’s here to stay and APAC is lapping it up fast.

According to research agency, Strategy Analytics, North America and Asia Pacific regions have been the most liberal in their approach but are still at different stages of tolerance. North America’s BYOD volume increased 18 per cent year-over-year in Q1 in 2013, compared to a whopping 77 per cent increase in Asia Pacific. The agency feels that attitudes towards BYOD in Western European countries are far less liberal and showed a surprising drop in a quarter that normally favours BYOD. The reasons range from costly roaming tariffs, to the inability of operators to offer split-billing on data charges, to high resistance from enterprises wanting to protect their volume rate plans, and question whether the security risks and complexity of managing so many devices and platforms will outweigh any benefit.

But the adoption of BYOD in APAC is not just limited to low roaming tariffs in the region or liberal split-billing policies by operators. It’s connected more with the social fabric, which in turn is influencing technology at large.

Entrepreneurial Spirit
The entrepreneurial spirit is higher in the APAC region than the US or Europe. According to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) – a matrix that measures the percentage of adults (aged 18–64) in an economy who are nascent and new entrepreneurs – is higher in Asia Pacific countries than US or European Union countries. TEA in China was as high as 24 in 2011, nearly twice as US. The average TEA for India and Thailand is about 12 and 20 respectively.

So what if TEA is higher in APAC than the US? While there’s no denying that entrepreneurs are more akin to adopting new methods and new technologies, it is also true that they’ll like to keep initial investments low. If adoption of BYOD saves them infrastructure costs – phones, notebooks, tablets and even servers costs – that money can be utilised in human resource and the much needed promotion in early days. That just leaves the organisation with the cost of tech support, which wouldn’t be as high for an early company to adopt as compared to an established company with systems and processes in place and which would require the wheel to be reinvented.

The cloud clout
Entrepreneurs would like to save on server costs too. Servers not only demand maintenance and continuous electric supply, but real estate too, which either can be saved or put to other use. And that would encourage entrepreneurs to go for cloud adoption. But it’s just not the entrepreneurs who are going for cloud adoption in APAC. In fact adoption of cloud in APAC is much higher than US, which has moved to virtualisation more than cloud. APAC is skipping virtualisation. Virtualisation gives service providers the ability to divide servers into multiple components so that several users could access them at once. Even though cloud computing utilises the virtualisation platform, it adds scalability and provisioning.

A 2012 study by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) tells a sorry state of adoption of cloud computing in US and Europe, even though the companies – Amazon, IBM, Google, Rackspace, Microsoft, besides others – that have been driving and leading the cloud computing phenomenon are US-based. A mere 19 per cent of the average large US company’s applications were on the cloud. Europe is worse, where only 12 per cent of the applications were on cloud. In contrast, in Asia Pacific, about 28 per cent of the applications are on cloud. For the record, it’s Latin America, with 39 per cent apps on cloud, that’s been the leader in adoption of cloud. The study predicts that both US and Europe are going to be laggards by end of 2014 too, with just about 34 per cent and 24 per cent apps respectively on cloud. Asia Pacific, with 50 per cent apps on cloud will be close to catch up with Latin America at 56 per cent.

Now there is an undeniable link between the growth of cloud and BYOD. It is again difficult to say whether cloud is fuelling BYOD or BYOD is fuelling cloud.

Cloud also makes sense from the point that employees can access data and enterprise apps any time of the day, whether be in office or out. Two, it also makes sense from a view when an employee moves on, data remains on the cloud and not on the device and there wouldn’t be a need for IT teams to wipe off data from the employee’s devices/s. They simply can be logged out with password changes or access denials.

The work/personal life mixers
Now, when there is little difference between personal device and work device and when one is always within reach of official apps and data, that certainly leaves less time for personal life and space. According to a study by recruitment services provider, Robert Half, 69 per cent of Singapore employees and 77 per cent of Hong Kong tune into work when they are out of the office or on holiday, higher than the regional average of 66 per cent. About 59 per cent of the respondents in Singapore cited technological advancements allowing access to work information from anywhere in the world.

The forever connectivity gives employers an excuse to encourage BYOD. While one could put away the official device, you can’t put away the personal device. The personal device now is the official device too. According to Strategy Analytics, about 19 per cent of Asia Pacific smartphone sales in Q1 of 2013 are used in BYOD, which though is less as compared to Latin America’s 44 per cent.

The need to be counted
Much of it is shaping the economy of the region and there is a hunger amongst people to move ahead in life. Not surprisingly, Asia Pacific has overtaken US in more number of millionaire entrepreneurs. The region outstripped its nearest rival in 2011 due to a rise in the number of wealthy Japanese and Chinese entrepreneurs and healthy growth. The region, according to a study by Capgemini and RBC Wealth Management, now houses 3.37 million millionaires compared with 3.35 million in the US and 3.17 million in Europe.

A study by Barclays finds out that the speed with which entrepreneurs have generated wealth in emerging economies – Asia Pacific and Africa is about 12 years, as compared to a lifespan of 23 years or more in established economics such as US. Asia Pacific is looking for its own share of recognition.

As per a research conducted by Ovum across 17 markets, 57.1 per cent of full-time employees engage in some form of BYOD. Yet, when broken down by market, there is a clear trend: 75 per cent of respondents in the emerging, “high-growth” markets (including Brazil, Russia, India, UAE, and Malaysia) demonstrate a much higher propensity to use their own devices at work, compared to 44 per cent in more mature markets.

“Employees in high-growth, emerging economies are demonstrating a more flexible attitude to working hours, and are happy to use their own devices for work. However, in mature markets, employees have settled into comfortable patterns of working behaviour and are more precious about the separation of their work and personal domains,” explains Richard Absalom, consumer impact IT analyst at Ovum.

Ovum’s research also suggests that employees in high-growth markets see BYOD as way to get ahead in their careers, with 79 per cent believing that constant connectivity to work applications enables them to do their jobs better, compared to 53.5 per cent in mature markets.

BYOD about four years ago was SYOD (Select Your Own Device). While many suggest that BYOD is transforming from Bring Your Own Device to Bring Your Own Data, on a lighter note, keeping in mind the advancements technology is making, soon it could be SYOD again. Send Your Own Device.