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Author's profile photo Milja Gillespie

Are you ready to BYOD?

I recently attended the “MobiBiz” event held in Toronto, Canada. The analyst firm IDC hosted the event in a very interactive and engaging format, and I was able to participate in a series of roundtable discussions on hot mobility topics.

The conversation at my table was around the “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD concept that many enterprises are discussing today.  Employees are knocking on the doors (or cubicle walls) of IT departments in companies big and small, asking for access to enterprise data from their personal devices – and many companies are listening.  According to Aberdeen Group, “More than 40% of information workers have the IT department install corporate-sanctioned mobile applications on their smartphone.” 

Our discussion was representative of many I have had with customers on this topic – I’m sure you can relate to the perspective of each of them as they were all at different stages of understanding the BYOD concept and what it could mean for them.  So, why we are even talking about BYOD?  What has happened in the market to even make us consider this? Over the last 18 months we’ve seen incredible new mobile devices come onto market targeting consumers – and they have rapidly infiltrated the enterprise for a host of reasons. I’ve read stats from various researchers indicating that between 50-60% of enterprises support personally-owned devices today. In a recent IDG survey, 60% of enterprises think it is “important to support employee-owned handheld device types to meet employee expectations for functionality.” Strategy Analytics puts it best by stating “Consumerization of enterprise mobility is a growing and unstoppable trend that should be embraced and not feared.” 

But why are companies even considering allowing this BYOD phenomenon to occur?  Hardware cost savings is an easy one to quantify (employees buy the device, company pays the service), but more importantly if an employee owns the device they already know how to use it – and they are likely to take better care of it. Ultimately the productivity gain is the real value for the enterprise. I’ve read estimates of the average information worker experiencing upwards of 20% productivity gain by having access to corporate data from a mobile device.

During the roundtable conversation, a woman from a field service company was investigating whether BYOD made sense for all of her employees – and it probably doesn’t. Task workers or “blue collar” workers out in the field doing repairs probably shouldn’t have to buy their own devices.  It is really the information workers – those who most often work in an office but may occasionally be mobile – who are the ones who are asking to bring their own devices to work.

One gentleman from local government was already allowing personal devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) to access corporate data and email.  His employees can bring their own devices to work today, and the city enables access enterprise email and documents on the device.

Yet another at the table was coming from a strict “IT sets the rules and you follow them” mindset. It was interesting to see his eyes open up during the conversation. Many enterprises still lack knowledge around the tools that are available to tackle securing the proliferation of consumer mobile devices in the workplace. After an enlightening conversation, he realized that when it comes to mobility there are solutions out there to help him keep the control he needs, while giving employees more freedom.

At the end of our discussion, it was my responsibility to gather notes and insights from the group and share our recommendations with the larger audience at the conference.  Here are the guidelines I shared:

  1. BYOD is a concept that is here to stay. It is not only about enabling email from smartphones, but rather about enabling an entire mobile strategy — on the devices that employees want.  Think about the big picture before you get tactical around securing devices, providing access to email, and planning for mobile applications.  Once you get started, the apps will grow rapidly – so plan ahead.
  2. This is not a ““we will support every device” game.  Rather, it is a “we will be flexible” game.  Don’t blindly allow all mobile devices to access your corporate network.  You have to set certain standards and guidelines and define an “approved device list”. This becomes very important when it comes to application development – target the most popular platforms to build your apps.
  3. Look at Mobile Device Management software as a way to secure and control corporate data on mobile devices, without affecting personal data.  This satisfied “Mr. Security” from the roundtable who didn’t know these offerings (like SAP Afaria) were even out there.
  4. Don’t wait! Get started with a trial now focused on a small number of users.  This is the best way to start figuring out what your mobility policies should be.

While these recommendations are only the tip of iceberg, there are many details to discuss on the BYOD topic. Our conversations touched on addressing legal issues of BYOD, billing of voice/data plans, how to implement hardware subsidies or monthly service subsidies, how to support devices and things like iTunes at the desktop, how to choose devices, building self-service portals and more.  I look forward to expanding on these topics as we dive deeper into this discussion in future posts.

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