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There’s no region as commercially diverse as Asia Pacific. It’s home to some of the most advanced economies in the world, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, lesser developed markets such as Myanmar and fast-growing economies, such as China and India. Beneath the surface sits a vast and varied landscape of IT infrastructures, workplace cultures and regulatory environments, all fuelling business at different speeds and in different ways. Nonetheless, there is one thing that connects it all.

Over the last two years, Asia Pacific has seen a rapid rise in new ways of working. In this article, we shine the spotlight on two of the most prevalent trends – bring your own device (BYOD) and Cloud computing – and discover how both enterprises and employees in the region are adapting to them.


BYOD: a new norm for employees

According to a Microsoft survey3, other drivers of Cloud adoption are: reduced IT staffing costs, reduced IT infrastructure costs and supporting unpredictable workload. And, in a report by the Customer Solutions Group and EMC, ‘improving productivity’4 is cited as the main driver for CIOs. These opportunities are understood by most enterprises but now, it’s about taking that decisive next step.


New generation, new rules

“Businesses don’t have a choice; they can’t say no”, says Stevan Hoyle, President of Asia and Africa at Vodafone Global Enterprise. “In Asia, where the workforce is predominantly young, businesses have to meet the needs of employees that have grown up using mobile technology and the internet.” In order to attract and retain the best talent, it's paramount to adopt a flexible approach to the technology and devices that employees bring to and use for work.

In many Asian countries, the infrastructure is also paving the way for BYOD adoption; in parts where there’s no legacy fixed infrastructure, businesses and employees tend to leapfrog straight to mobile. This is also reflected in other emerging markets such as Africa, where most internet usage occurs over mobile broadband rather than fixed broadband.


Not about the device

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing a BYOD strategy is implementing it successfully. As Stevan explains, “Many companies focus BYOD around the device, whereas they should look at it as a way to improve the access to and delivery of information. Building policies around internet and app usage and subsequently restricting what employees can and cannot do on their devices simply does not work.” BYOD is about the personal and business use of information whenever and wherever, so the answer to managing security is not about rules and limits.


Balance the benefits

The ‘always on’ attitude that BYOD brings to the workplace, has two sides to it. It can drive productivity, greater business agility and job satisfaction. But with this, comes the challenge of managing data security, controlling costs and ensuring compliance. And therein lies another interesting challenge for both the employee and the enterprise: drawing the line between personal and business use.


Switch on to the risks

“BYOD and an ‘always-on’ attitude to working can lead to digital burnout”, explains Stevan. The younger generation, in particular, don’t know when to switch off. “They’re always connected; they don’t know when they should stop answering emails”. One technical solution that not only helps employees manage their work-life balance, but also enables companies to manage data security without imposing all sorts of usage restrictions, is through device partitioning, enabling employees to maintain both a personal and business (dual) persona on their devices. Ultimately, however, it is key for enterprises to take a holistic approach towards implementing BYOD; to realise that it’s not an IT decision, but a company-wide strategy that needs policies, procedures and proper management.

"Over 70% of companies have policies to support BYOD, but 79% of BYOD users have not yet signed a corporate policy governing BYOD."Ovum 2012 Multi­Market BYOD Survey

Cloud computing: a new opportunity for enterprises

If BYOD is seen as one of the most influential driving forces in changing the way employees work, what about Cloud?

Cloud is different. First, as Nick Lambert, Executive Vice President of Managed Network and Services at Vodafone Global Enterprise, explains, “Cloud is not employee-driven; it’s a strategic, business-led decision.” Second, Cloud has been around for some time and has seen a slower rate of adoption compared to BYOD. However, most experts believe that this trend is at a strategic inflexion point now, with the rate of adoption expected to gather pace. Spending on public IT Cloud services will grow almost fivefold, to reach $19.5 billion in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) by 20162. So why is that?


Sensitive about security

When most enterprises talk about Cloud, there’s one big issue that is front of mind: security. As Nick explains, “Every enterprise needs to know that its data – particularly sensitive data like customer information and financial records – is secure and protected.” Enterprises have historically been wary of trusting business critical information to third-party service providers.

Beyond that, enterprises in Asia Pacific particularly, have another key concern. In a region of such diversity, where regulatory and data sovereignty policies vary massively from country to country, adhering to these – and keeping your enterprise on the right side of the law – can be a big challenge. How can an enterprise make sure it’s meeting the individual legal requirements of a local market if its data is hosted in the Cloud? This creates real geo-critical sensitivities – and a real barrier to adoption.


Reach for the sky

Despite the challenges, we know that enterprises in Asia Pacific are warming to the Cloud. As Nick explains, “increasingly, Cloud is seen as a secure, reliable way of storing company information and a way of connecting international business back into the core business hub”. The technology has matured over the decade – from the early days of Virtualisation – even as more and more end-users become comfortable with storing and managing information online. For growing enterprises, looking to diversify into new territories quickly and easily, Cloud could therefore become a very important enabler.

According to a Microsoft survey3, other drivers of Cloud adoption are: reduced IT staffing costs, reduced IT infrastructure costs and supporting unpredictable workload. And, in a report by the Customer Solutions Group and EMC, ‘improving productivity’4 is cited as the main driver for CIOs. These opportunities are understood by most enterprises but now, it’s about taking that decisive next step.


Exciting times ahead

BYOD and Cloud computing are two great examples of how Asia Pacific is embracing new ways of working. What the region demonstrates, is that BYOD needs to be approached not as a technology debate, but as a strategic business decision. As Stevan reiterates, “The most successful BYOD implementations are those with a joined-up policy – and only those businesses that embrace a holistic approach to using BYOD as a means to improve access and delivery of information will see the best results.”

As for Cloud, there are exciting times ahead. “Customers are already evaluating the potential of fully managed hosting solutions as well as cloud computing solutions to deliver to their growing need to make IT investments more efficient and effective”, says Nick. “People are waking up to the potential of Cloud as a key business differentiator and most companies understand that investing in it could possibly be the next biggest driver of productivity in the enterprise.”

 

Notes

1. Why BYOD finds more takers in APAC than US and Europe. http://www.digitalmarket.asia/2013/07/comment-why-byod-finds-more-takers-in-apac-than-us-and-europe
2. Asia/Pacific Cloud Services – IDC. http://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=IDC_P20174
3. Cloud Computing Trends in Asia Pacific – Media Valet, http://www.mediavalet.co/cloud-computing-trends-in-asia-pacific.aspx
4. Asia Pacific CIOs looking to lead in big data and Cloud – CIO research, http://www.emc.com/microsites/cio/global-cio-research/pdfs/apj-whitepaper.pdf