The industry chatter around BYOD – the IT policy of allowing you as an employee to do your daily work, accessing company assets and applications, even if you “bring your own device” – probably has many employees pleased. It sounds like it might be the wave of the future. Some even see it as the wave of, well, today.
On the other hand, BYOD has many IT folks very worried.
The impetus behind BYOD is noble. BYOD stemmed from the move toward the consumerization of IT (which, as Kevin Fogarty pointed out in IT World, can lead to some weird device and laptop fashion choices). After years of getting beaten up for not being responsive to users, IT might see BYOD as a great way to say “yes” to their internal customers. But it’s not as easy as that.
Ahead of the curve
Customers and prospects we are working with here at Framehawk have thought long and hard about BYOD. However, several of the financial firms we’re talking to actually got ahead of the curve and bought iPads for their customer-facing employees. Now they are building out the ability to access and fully use their existing applications from their iPads. Other devices will come later.
Others are letting employees buy their own iPads and even pay for the services they want to use. Some of those same firms stopped short of a full-fledged BYOD policy but are working towards one, choosing to focus on a limited set of mobile platforms initially.
Still others we’re talking to, however, have turned their attention to use cases where device choice is a given – access to their customer-facing apps. In those situations, they don’t have a chance to mandate what device is going to be used with their systems. “It’s not about employees bringing devices,” one of our field guys told me. “It’s about serving their customers.” In other words, it had better just work. After all, customers can pick whatever device they want.
BYOD’s big questions
All of these permutations and options lead to some pretty big questions around BYOD. Those of us attending IDG’s Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise event in San Francisco earlier in the year got a pretty big dose of the dos and don’ts around BYOD. And as Philippe Winthrop of the Enterprise Mobility Forum mentioned at the conference, there are both technology and policy issues at play. (Lucas Mearian did a good write up in Network World about the event if you’re interested).
The underlying question is this: what does IT need to do in order to prepare an enterprise’s infrastructure to deal with BYOD? Even if BYOD is a well-intentioned attempt to be service-oriented and please their employees by giving them the choices they want, is IT getting itself into a big mess even though they are attempting to do the right thing?
To figure this out, enterprises need to ask themselves 2 things. First, what are you trying to accomplish?
Will BYOD save enterprises money?
One potential goal is pretty clear: many folks start down the BYOD path because it sounds like a way to save the company money. No capital expenditures on mobile devices? Sounds great. Gordon Haff related an acronym that describes what most enterprises probably believe users should know about BYOD: SYOM. As in: “Spend Your Own Money.”
However, Tom Kaneshige recently rattled off the hidden costs of BYOD for the enterprise in PC World, even if they aren’t paying for devices any more. His list included everything from hidden expense report costs, to security, to multi-platform support and help desk issues.
What exactly are you preparing for?
The second question to answer is about preparation. Do you have an answer to the varied and complex infrastructure issues that you’ll have to deal with to be able to support any device?
Part of the answer to this goes back to what you are trying to accomplish. What do you want people to access? From which kinds of devices? In his Cult of Mac piece about defining BYOD, Ryan Faas highlights what analyst Maribel Lopez called the right question on the topic: “What, if anything, are you allowing employees to access on their personal devices?” We’ll keep an eye on Maribel’s on-going research in the space.
So, does IT even have a chance of making this work?
We actually think so. I mentioned in our first blog post that the speed with which mobile devices are changing IT is downright amazing. The BYOD discussion is one very real example of that. Despite that, there are ways to make a BYOD policy work.
In fact, we’ve been working hard on how to crack this nut ourselves: how to deliver the capabilities of enterprise applications via tablets or any other mobile device, while keeping corporate data where it should be. And doing so quickly and for drastically reduced development costs. In future posts, we’ll talk through some of the more interesting key concepts (or, you can go here for a head start).
In the meantime, we’d love to hear about BYOD successes – or even horror stories. Hopefully, with an emphasis on smart strategies to end up on the successful side of that equation.