BYOD is the answer, now what’s the question?

boy thinkingGiven the continued hype around BYOD it would be easy to think that it is the solution to every organisation’s mobile requirements. Claims about the benefits it brings, that organisations have no choice but to adopt a BYOD model, that younger employees expect to be able to use their own devices in the work place and so on are still being made on what seems like a daily basis.

However, sentiment does seem to be changing slightly with a growing number of articles talking about higher costs, security breaches, legal issues about personal data on devices, etc. And, there is a growing acknowledgement that adopting BYOD brings many challenges that may negate many of the perceived benefits. But still the hype goes on.

A recent post on the Vodafone Global Enterprise website used results from a global survey on the consumerisation of IT by Wakefield Research to dispel a number of myths about BYOD. The post contains some interesting stats from the research which was completed by 605 respondents, including C-level executives, business unit leaders and IT decision-makers from 17 countries.

One that particularly stood out was that 91% of C-level executives and 75% of IT decision makers said their IT department today has the staff and resources needed to manage the use of consumer technologies. The main reason this finding caught the eye was that it directly contradicts another recent survey commissioned by Azaleos that found that managing a wide range of devices will double IT resources required to manage devices by 2014.

But the studies did agree that mobile device management (MDM) solutions were a priority for organisations with the Wakefield Research stating that 79% of respondents plan to make new investments in “areas like mobile device management” whereas the Azaleos survey found that 56% of organisations plan to implement MDM in the next 2 years.

Now, both Vodafone and Azaleos provide MDM solutions so it’s easy to see their motivation in publishing articles that point to MDM as the answer to BYOD problems. In its article Vodafone pushed MDM as the answer to security concerns about BYOD whereas Azaleos used the increased resources angle as a driver for implementing MDM. So the surveys disagree on some points but agree on others. And vendors agree on what solution you need but not why it’s needed!

The recent focus on MDM is indicative of the coverage being given to BYOD which effectively only covers two aspects of allowing staff to use their own devices; potential benefits and the risks/challenges and how to overcome them. This presupposes that BYOD is the right thing to do, that the potential benefits apply to all organisations, that the challenges and risks are generic and hence so are the steps you need to take to address them. In other words, the implied message is BYOD is the answer to your mobility requirements, whatever they may be.

BYOD is like any new technology or trend; CIOs need to cut through the hype and excitement to work out whether it has a role to play in their organisation. This has to start with looking at challenges, needs or opportunities within the organisation that the new technology or solution may help to address. In the case of BYOD, CIOs need to assess if it can play a part in their overall mobility strategy. This will involve looking at which roles will benefit from mobility solutions and what applications each role will need to access. The next step is work out how best to provide access; mobile app, web front-end, virtualised desktop, etc. This will determine how much, if any, data will reside on the mobile device and also what level and type of security will be required. At this point the type of device and whether this is best provided by the organisation or the user can be determined.

And it is only at this stage that BYOD becomes an option. For example, for light users (e.g. mail, calendar, etc) BYOD may be an ideal option but for heavy users of corporate applications where look and feel, performance and security are important it may be better for the organisation to provide the device. There is also the halfway option of Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) where the organisation will procure and therefore own the device chosen by the user. This enables the organisation to gain volume discounts on devices and call/data tariffs whilst giving the user the device of their choice.

It is perhaps not surprising that organisations that have leapt straight into a full BYOD model are now finding that it actually costs more as they missed out on the first and most important step of working out if/how BYOD can work for them. BYOD is not a mobility strategy in itself, but it can play a part in enabling mobility across an organisation. But like any new solution, you need to define the business problem that needs to be solved or the capability that is required first and then deploy the right solution. Organisations that follow a more structured approach to defining and meeting their mobility needs will find BYOD, if applied appropriately, will indeed realise many benefits.

And a brief footnote: BYOD is likely to be happening in your organisation already, whether it has been officially endorsed or not. Following the advice offered in this article takes time so you may need to take some steps now to ensure your organisation is not being exposed to any necessary risks. Our article CIO SOS: BYOD provides some practical steps for managing BYOD in the short-term while you work out your long-term model.

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