IT is accepting – and in some cases embracing – “bring your own device” (BYOD) as a reality in the enterprise.

This is according to the Cisco IBSG Horizons Study of IT and business leaders, which underscores that BYOD is here to stay, and managers are now acknowledging the need for a more holistic approach – one that is scalable and addresses mobility, security, virtualisation and network policy management, in order to keep management costs in line while simultaneously providing optimal experiences where savings can be realised.

“As the number of devices being brought into work increases, organisations need a comprehensive mobility strategy,” says Leon Wright, country lead,: systems engineering at Cisco SA. “By leveraging the intelligent network, organisations can now provide their employees with the benefits of working anywhere, anytime: in other words, ‘work your way’.

“These research findings support Cisco’s assertion that mobility needs to extend well beyond BYOD to include the integration of service provider mobility, enterprise mobility, security, collaboration and desktop virtualisation solutions.”

The study shows some of the quantifiable benefits and complexities associated with allowing employees to use their own mobile devices on their employers’ networks. Most organisations are now enabling BYOD in the enterprise, with a staggering 95% of respondents saying their organisations permit employee-owned devices in some way, shape or form in the workplace.

It also concluded that the average number of connected devices per knowledge worker is expected to reach 3,3 by 2014, up from an average of 2,8 in 2012. IT managers are balancing security and support concerns with the very real potential to reap significant cost and productivity benefits from the BYOD trend.

What’s more, the survey found that BYOD is just the gateway to greater business benefits. Over 76% of IT leaders surveyed categorised BYOD as somewhat or extremely positive for their companies, while seeing significant challenges for IT.

The report finds that 95% of organisations allow employee-owned devices in some way, shape or form in the workplace, with 84% of respondents not only allowing employee-owned devices, but also providing some level of support; and 36% of surveyed enterprises providing full support for any employee-owned devices.

Mobility and device use are on the rise. According to the survey, 78% of US white-collar employees use a mobile device for work purposes, and 65% of white-collar workers require mobile connectivity to do their jobs. On average, mobility initiatives will consume 20% of IT budgets in 2014, compared to 17% in 2012.

Most IT leaders (76%) consider consumerisation “somewhat” or “extremely” positive for their companies, with the top two perceived benefits of BYOD being improved employee productivity (more opportunities to collaborate) and greater job satisfaction.

It also emerges that employees want to work their way, and are turning to BYOD because they want more control of their work experience. In this respect, 40% of respondents cited “device choice” as employees’ top BYOD priority (the ability to use their favourite device anywhere).

Employees’ second BYOD priority is the desire to perform personal activities at work, and work activities during personal time. They also want to bring their own applications to work: 69% of respondents said that unapproved applications — especially social networks, cloud-based email, and instant messaging — are somewhat to much more prevalent today than two years ago.

In addition, employees are willing to invest to improve their work experience. According to Cisco IBSG, the typical Cisco employee who chooses to use his or her own devices at work pays, on average, a $600 premium to do so.

The survey finds that the benefits of BYOD vary based on an employee’s role and work requirements. Cisco IBSG estimates that in the US for example, the annual benefits from BYOD range from $300 to $1 300 per employee, depending on the employee’s job role.

However, the trend adds complexity to security and IT support, which are the top BYOD challenges.

In addition, device proliferation requires new policy and approach to control cost. According to Cisco IBSG analysis, only 14% of BYOD costs are hardware-related, highlighting the importance of choosing the right governance and support models to control these costs.

BYOD is tied up with the rising popularity of desktop virtualisation, and companies recognise the value in this trend, with 98% of people aware of desktop virtualisation. In addition, 68% of respondents agreed that a majority of knowledge worker roles are suitable for desktop virtualisation and 50% noted that their organisation is in the process of implementing a desktop virtualisation strategy.

Desktop virtualisation benefits three key areas: business continuity so that workers can access applications through multiple locations and devices even if, for example, a server goes down; employee productivity; and IT costs.

However, data protection is the number one concern, and ensuring that only the right people have access to sensitive company and customer data is a top priority.