The bring your own device trend is creating a "be your own IT manager" mindset among small business owners -- and pushing device makers and carriers to be IT consultants, not just sell hardware and services.
That key theme emerged at the Android Solutions for Business event held at the Toronto Board of Trade on Wednesday and sponsored by Rogers Communications Inc. and Samsung Canada. Though the event focused on various Samsung Android smartphones and tablets targeting the Canadian enterprise market, it also explored how the mobile workforce is disrupting the way small businesses manage their IT. In turn, that's forcing carriers and device makers to change the services they offer to SMBs.
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"It's not just about the devices anymore. It's about 'Tell me your needs and let's have a conversation about that.' It's needs-based," said Tisha Rattos, director of small business marketing at Rogers.
Under the old business model, hardware companies made devices, SMBs bought or leased them en masse for all their staff, and then carriers provided SMBs with the telecom services they needed to use them.
Now hardware firms are still making devices, but workers -- not the SMBs who employ them -- are choosing which ones to use at work. This means SMB owners are being directly confronted with IT conundrums: how to make sure devices of different brands and operating systems can all work together and be managed and secured properly. It's a tough new course to navigate for SMBs that typically don't have the resources to devote specifically to IT management.
"You know at the smaller end (of the SMB spectrum) they won't have a CIO (chief information officer)," said Rattos, whose Rogers unit caters to companies with less than 100 employees.
Since many SMB owners don't have in-house CIOs or even IT managers, they have to manage the new BYOD challenges themselves.
How are they doing that? Many are offloading their BYOD issues to service providers like Rogers. As a result, service providers like Rogers don't just sell mobile devices and carrier packages to SMBs anymore; they increasingly advise them on everything from how to manage and secure multiple BYOD devices to deciding which of the thousands of mobile apps on the market would help them run their businesses better.
"They need help to get through all that complex decision making process," Rattos said. "There's so much (mobile technology) out there. How do you start to make them all work?"
The top queries Rogers fields from small business owners these days are how to keep in touch with their staff remotely in real time, how to make sure their staff's BYOD devices are secure at work, and what type of systems and features are available to wipe or recover employees' mobile devices if they're lost or stolen, Rattos said.
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