The Two State World View and BYOC

Photo: Johan Larsson
I rejoined Infosys on June 1 as Head of Global Sales. It’s been quite easy slipping back into the saddle on most fronts. The one that took a bit of adjusting to, was on my gear.

Startups don’t have IT policies. For the past few years I have been using email in the cloud, a MacBook, an Android phone and have not been within miles of a securID card. All that changed overnight.

Infosys, like most major corporations, takes information security very seriously. Actually, because its policies have to be at least as strict as its most security conscious clients, Infosys is probably an outlier, even in the corporate world.

All very necessary and reasonable. But I am going to miss my personal tech freedom. Most people who have gone back to work for a large company know what I am talking about.

The world around them is changing, and companies will have to respond to it. Current IT policies are based upon a “two state” view of the world. It sees the “employee at work using company computing infrastructure” and “employee on her own time, on her own device” as two states, separated by time and space. This is increasingly untenable. Not only does it not reflect the reality of the life of information workers, it is also easy to argue that this view of the user is not in the interests of the company.

In today’s shrinking world, a major corporation is open for business in some part of the world at all hours. Employees have to be open to this 24X7, always-on kind of work environment. The boundaries between company time and personal time are blurred. Should the employee have to keep switching between company and personal devices?

If I go for a two week trip to Asia Pacific and carry just my company devices with me, can I put my personal life on hold? I might have to pay my bills, answer personal email and yes, even lookup my friends on Facebook. I might want to catch my favorite weekly show on HBO. Should I have to carry two laptops?

I could also argue that IT policy based upon this “two states” world view is not in the interests of the company. Let’s say a new employee is hired into a tax advisory firm. He is an expert in say cross-border taxation issues. For years he has kept notes in Evernote. But now he can’t bring those notes inside the firewall because of the lock-down environment in the company. That can’t be a good thing for the company.

Further, the taxation expert has a twitter account and a blog which connects him to other experts and people interested in his field. These are personal accounts, but the company gains from his network and reputation. The company gets leads because of his online presence.

Another problem is the consumerization of computing technology. There was a time when the IT department could standardize on Windows and Blackberry and few employees would be disappointed. But now Macs are a real corporate alternative. And iOS and Android phones and tablets outnumber RIM devices. Their users love them and will keep the pressure on IT to let them use these devices.

Fragmentation always costs more and IT departments hate it. But how long will they be able to hold up against employees who want their own device?

Which is why regardless of the challenges, Bring Your Own Computer and Bring Your Own Device are here to stay.


  1. Kasto says:

    Welcome back to Infosys Basab!! I was in early stage of my career at Infosys during your first stint and I have had the privilege to listen to your inspiring speeches

    IT Service Companies look to prescribe to two state view these days and harp a lot on IP security. On the contrary, product companies (which, in fact, should be more worried about IP security) allow greater freedom to their employees. In fact for such reasons, employees prefer working out of client locations to avoid all the hassles

    My strong opinion is that employee productivity and intellect would improve only with greater freedom (And, all companies need to trust that their employees are mature enough to handle the freedom responsibly)


  2. Kumar says:

    Welcome back, and wishing you a great 2nd innings!
    Yes, in this 24/7 environment and with personal gadgets growing by the number in the household, the line between professional and personal computing/mobility becomes blurred.
    Then there is this very frequent problem about carrying two equivalent devices (eg. laptops) on a trip. Not to mention the added inconvenience of dragging along another laptop, we know how tricky it can get with airlines (hand baggage restrictions!) and custom officials.
    I work out of a client location, where external PCs work quite fine on the internal network. I don’t see a reason why BYOC should not become a trend. As Kasto says, it’s a matter of putting some trust on the employee and then taking some revamping decisions on the IT infrastructure policy.


  3. Krishna says:

    …Nice rant… I imagined outcomes… Given the rigidity (more of a paranoia) prevalent in big corporations in going against customer prescriptions, you could at best get a complimentary twin laptop carry bag , an Android jammer and a Mac squisher built in…:-)))


  4. Sanal says:

    Given all the recent hacking incidents that have taken place and Wikileaks being fresh on everbody’s minds..clients are going to tighten their audits/reviews of internal control mechnisms and service provider controls. This will make it very difficult for service providers like us (Infy) to implement “bring your own device” models. It is easy to say that companies need to trust employees..all it takes is one bad onion…! It might end up being a combination..firms might allow certain classes of employees (senior management, sales types) to BYOD..most others will have to live with “device firewalls”.


  5. Dip says:

    Congratulations and Good Luck.


  6. Aditya Nath Jha says:

    Basab, I think there are two other related (and, possibly, deeper) issues here. The first is that of applications. Personal/consumer technology is racing ahead of enterprise technology. Smarter people are working on personal/consumer technology now which will widen the gap even further. The reluctance of the enterprise to plug itself into this application space will have an impact. Consumers of the enterprise may “demand” that they do so and it will be interesting to see the kind of advantage that accrues to the enterprise that bites the bullet. The second issue is that of mindset. Enterprise are, by nature, closed, undemocratic, structured, control freaks while the philosophical foundation of the personal/consumer technology is open, democratic and unstructured/chaotic. I am waiting for the generation that grew up online to join the workforce. Asking them to come into office without their iPhone/androids will be like asking them to come in naked 🙂


  7. Rajeev Singh says:

    Welcome back Basab, I once worked with Infosys and its a pleasure to know that you are again aligned with Infy….


  8. Vyankatesh says:

    Interesting viewpoint – something which would have been echoed by multiple techies across the world.

    However, in my opinion, bridging the gap between the “two states” would be as good as a major corporate transformation itself, something which looks unlikely to happen in near future.


  9. Jigar Jobanputra says:

    Now that you are back at Infy, I am sure you will find less time for your blogs and will be busy fixing your sales team who know not what they sell and the delivery teams who know not what was sold and bought !

    By the way, I was also there once…


  10. pt109 says:

    Find your blogs very interesting. Maybe will become few and far between with you working for Infosys. So what do corporations’ think about their top tier people blogging. Do they feel it affects their reputation?


  11. Ajay says:

    Great post, Basab. And best wishes in your second innings at Infosys. I come by your blog from time to time and always find something interesting. I am sure you will find time to write abt bollywood, iitk, india and beyond.


  12. Mohan says:

    A very interesting post. I couldn’t agree more with Aditya’s comments too.

    One also needs to callout another subtle distinction: between IT workers and IT geeks. Most IT organizations have a fair mix of both. Nerds working for corporate clients at service firms, including Infosys, need to have two sides: the day-programmer-earn-my-living side vs. the Nerdy-let-me-hack-the-coolest-gadget dimension. Walking into Electronic city campus, most are probably glad to trade even their usb-zip-drives for the opportunity to code for a client timezones away and earn a few dollars. 😉

    And this is not unique to techies alone. One can draw analogies to other vocations too:
    Aviation enthusiast vs. a tie-and-jacket-747 Pilot (who enters the cockpit to fly an aircraft probably built a few decades ago, not the coolest new flying machine)


  13. rakesh kumar says:

    I am reading your blog for long time and i find it very informative.I wish more people can write like you.


  14. StatSpotting says:

    Why is nobody mentioning the iPad?


  15. Naveen says:

    I completely concur with this assessment. The funny thing is the iPad is beginning to shake this. Unfortunately, Corporate bureaucracy and the narrow orifices called CIO’s will try to obstruct this adoption of personal devices but might lose the battle; eventually.

    I work for an enterprise company and have my IT allow my tablet pretty seamlessly to be used and it’s a heck of a productivity tool.

    I found this article discussing exactly this topic and liked it hence sharing it.

    Congratulations – Basab for rejoining Infosys as Head of Sales. I have been a keen follower of your blog since it had that first red header in type pad before you migrated to your own hosting for it and have been an ardent follower of Gridstone from 2005.

    Wish you the best!



  16. Sojith Sugadan says:

    Which is why Cloud sounds tempting…. !!


  17. Dip says:

    Hope things change for positive with you joining in. Infy seems to have lost its touch especially last 3yrs it has run out of ideas (lost touch with employees on ground and customers in market). Mgmt seemed to follow the idea reduce variable pay/employee benefits to protect margin. Someone commented Manmohan Singh’s cabinet reshuffle is just political kho-kho. I wish Infy’s mgmt changes seemed better.
    Cognizant, HCL, TCS’s last leadership change seemed to bring freshness and energy into the system unleashing x.0 version of those organizations as a natural phenomenon due to change of guard.


  18. Vikram says:

    Its time Infy updates its IT policy and brings in some flexibility on the E-mail accessibility and VPN. Sometimes its a pain to get on to work related things when you are away from office /home.


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