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CIOs are not participants in a popularity contest

Debarati Roy | March 15, 2013
Bask Iyer, SVP and CIO, Juniper Networks, talks about the challenges of working with extremely tech-savvy employees spread across 46 countries, and ways to tackle them.

Personally, I think BYOD, as a term, was marketed wrong. When we say 'bring your own device', it doesn't mean that employees can bring any device they want.

Having super-users who are not just fascinated with new technology, but also have extremely strong personal preferences around what devices and platforms they use is indeed a problem. In the end, what users need to understand is that they are still coming to work. No matter how much we would like to not come to work or want to come in casual clothes everyday, there is a work protocol that everyone needs to follow. I understand and respect employees' personal choices. But at the same time, I am a CIO, not a participant in a popularity contest.

How did you solve this problem at Juniper?

Firstly, every BYOD strategy needs to be optimized on three vectors: End-user satisfaction, cost, and security. I cannot let user satisfaction take over data security concerns. Neither will I buy every tool possible and blow out 4-5 million of my budget so that one user in India and China can bring their favorite phone. There will always be vendors and suppliers who would say anything is possible, but is that the right thing to do? It is not. Therefore, we have found out a balanced approach that's the best--both for Juniper and its employees.

So at Juniper, we give our employees a 'Choose Your Own Permitted Device' option. It includes a vast array of devices over all the major platforms, and I think that if you give the employees a wide range of devices to choose from, they won't arm-twist you about bringing only their device to work.

When people choose to bring their own devices, we tell them there would be some standards such as encryptions, password protections, and remote wipe that we would enforce. These are standard precautions because the data still belongs to the company. I don't say no to a lot of phones, I instead say that I don't know about them. There are so many Android phones; I couldn't have possibly tested my application on all these platforms.

Why is change management such a big issue in a company like yours, where most of the employees are very tech-savvy?

I agree that the digital natives take to computers better. I have been in the industry for over 25 years, yet my kids find it easier to figure out how a game or a new device works. But that expertise in technology doesn't necessarily translate into something substantial in a business environment. A complete grasp over the latest devices or even the latest technology is very different from how one manages inventory management or supply chain across an organization. There it comes to people, processes, and technology and people don't necessarily like change. Like I mentioned earlier, people don't like to work on or improve people or process-related issues because they are complicated, mundane, and time-consuming. People might be more computer-literate but they essentially don't like change.


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