Ricoh CIO explains why he let 9,000 employees go BYOD

Credit: michele piacquadio

Tracey Rothenberger, CIO, Senior Vice President and Chief Process Officer for Ricoh Americas lets 9,000 employees choose their own mobile phones and tablets. He says mobile is evolving so quickly, it's simply easier to let users choose their own devices than to try and control it -- but he says, IT still has a prominent role to play.

Rothenberger says the BYOD policy which applies for his sales associates, field service engineers, and administrative staff, developed as a reaction to the rapid pace of change in the mobile market. "Technology is moving very fast with the introduction of new devices every month and we didn't want to sit down and maintain a refresh strategy on something that was a personal decision for each employee," he said. 

That means Ricoh allows just about any device, whether that's iOS, Blackberry, Android, or Windows. "We do not care what employees bring to work as long as they follow our corporate policies for usage of the device and protection of proprietary information," Rothenberger said.

He added, that the policy developed to keep IT out of the decisionmaking process and not have to fight the constant change inherent in the mobile industry today.

"This way we are not in the middle of an employee’s decision to upgrade. They can upgrade at their own pace. Our BYOD strategy was built to withstand these constant changes and the inevitable evolution of mobile devices, where our IT infrastructure can support all devices in a similar manner, under one umbrella," Rothenberger explained.

While the policy clearly makes sense for Ricoh, it's not without complications for IT, Rothenberger says.

"For IT, the biggest challenge is making sure we have the infrastructure to support BYOD. It is important that we can support devices all in a similar manner. We have a clear policy in place. For example, our strategy requires users to install software that enforces certain password strength and enables us with the ability to remotely wipe the device if an employee leaves the organization," he said.

He adds, "We manage devices through software that propagates our policies and security controls across all the devices. We have developed some applications and also rely on vendors for others. Some cloud based vendors have very useful and modern mobility applications that are helpful for our organization."

He says among the tools he uses is Lotus Traveler, a tool from IBM that helps IT enforce corporate policy on mobile devices. It's used in conjunction with Lotus Notes, which is Ricoh's email system. He says their wireless field services applications have components that were custom built by Ricoh and among their cloud applications is Salesforce.com.

Rothenberger says the company's liberal BYOD policy is part of a broader consumerization strategy the company is implementing. For instance, Ricoh is encouraging the use of simpler applications instead of traditional enterprise applications, which tend to be complicated and difficult to manage and learn.

And he says as a company, they have tried to pass some of that simplicity onto customers. "Ricoh, being a technology provider, has also written several applications for our customers. For example, through an app that we developed, customers are able to open a service ticket [on their mobile phone], scan a picture of a bar code on a device and place a service request to Ricoh. Ultimately we want our customers to be able to place supply orders on the same interface. Ricoh has also developed mobile print applications that allow customers to easily print from mobile platforms to Ricoh printers and MFP devices."

Rothenberger points out that when employees leave the company, they do a remote wipe of the device and employees understand this is company policy. "Making sure we had an appropriate set of policies and procedures for when employees join or leave the organization was key from the moment we implemented our BYOD strategy."

As a large organization trying to control every employee's choice of mobile devices became unwieldy and given the pace of change almost impossible. Rather than try and continue to control the process on the device end, Ricoh decided to let employees choose their own devices and attack it as device management problem.

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