Principal Consultant & Enterprise Mobility Lead
What you need to know about "Bring Your Own Device" this year
11 Oct 2012
The "Consumerisation of IT" has been one of the most disruptive trends in Enterprise IT this year, so it seemed like a good time to address a few key questions around what is commonly termed as "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD).
Are companies actually moving to a BYOD policy?
Yes. I see a number of our customers embrace "Bring Your Own Device" principles and it's happening much quicker than many of them anticipated.
According to recent research http://www.avanade.com/en-uk/approach/research/pages/consumerization-of-it.aspx "nearly three-quarters of C-level executives reported that the growing use of employee-owned technology is a top priority in their organization". The same report also highlights how far this transition has progressed in that "the majority of companies (60%) said they are now adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employee's personal devices, rather than restricting employee use of personal devices".
How much can be saved by transitioning to a BYOD approach?
Initially BYOD was seen as a way to offload the cost of procuring, replacing and managing communication equipment and thus as a guaranteed cost saver. In the meantime however there is also evidence to the contrary. For example, research company Aberdeen who found that a BYOD deployment in average costs 33% more than "a well managed wireless deployment where the company owns the devices".
Clearly, a holistic approach is required when assessing the cost of a BYOD approach versus corporate issued devices and should include any cost related to:
- Procuring, managing and replacing devices
- Telephony, roaming and data network expenses
- Tax implications linked to refunding employee expenses versus a direct corporate expenditure
- Developing, procuring, deploying and supporting applications for a homogenous versus a heterogeneous mobile device population including any necessary supporting infrastructure
- Any additional network infrastructure to support employee-owned devices.
What else drives organisations to implement BYOD?
The main motivations to implement BYOD I see today are:
- Boosting employee productivity and satisfaction by allowing employees to use the technology they wish to use
- Opening up opportunities to integrate partners, contractors, customers or other parties when issuing corporate devices just isn't feasible or viable
- Encouraging innovation by increasing exposure to more recent (consumer) technology
- Pragmatism that employees are going to use their own devices anyway and that therefore it's better to set this up in a way that can be controlled and managed.
What are the challenges that come with BYOD?
Bring Your Own Device is a policy topic and needs to be treated as such. Clearly defining under which circumstances it is acceptable or desirable for employees to make use of their own technology is essential. An existing "acceptable use policy" for corporate technology can be a good starting point, but it's important to get the balance right between the company's need to protect its data and systems and the employee's right to maintain control and ownership of his own kit.
Most technical challenges are caused by the fact that consumer devices typically have not been designed or optimized for the enterprise. This means that additional effort is required to address key requirements inherent to enterprise usage such as:
- Connectivity into a closed network environment
- Running applications that are specific to the company
- Support and management by dedicated support personnel
- Securing confidential data and preventing data breaches
- Audit-ability and compliance with regulations like PCI or HIPAA
The third dimension here is that the immense variety and short life span of consumer devices results in additional complexity when developing for these devices or when additional layers need to be introduced to manage these devices. This aspect is often referred to as "fragmentation" and exists on the hardware layer (form factors, screen sizes, input methods, peripherals, etc), the operating system (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone, etc.) and within individual operating systems in the form of different versions or variants.
What are best practices to make BYOD work?
Best practices are still emerging in the market, but here are a few initial thoughts:
- Add to your existing "acceptable use policies" to cover the BYOD scenario
- With the voluntary nature of most BYOD deployments, it is typically down to the adoption rate of a new service whether it is deemed a success. As a consequence it's a good idea to take a user-centric approach and to establish a frequent feedback loop early on to understand whether you're on the right track
- Since consumer devices and applications typically have not been designed for enterprise usage it's important to identify and close any capability gaps early on. Are the devices trusted to be secure or is another layer of security needed in the app or via a mobile device management solution? Can you rely on public app stores to get your app onto the target devices or will you need to establish an in-house enterprise app store?
- The fragmentation of mobile device operating systems and hardware is immense and can be a mayor cost-driver. A good understanding of which devices are in use today in your environment and where trends are heading over time are important data points to ensure any investments are targeted to the maximum number of users
- Thinking about re-use and a cross-platform approach upfront can also help to make the remaining fragmentation manageable
- Mobile technology is evolving at a rapid speed which is why long term strategic planning remains difficult. While a good understanding of the general direction is important, it can be just as useful to get some initial deployments in place that can then inform the longer term strategy.
Which application scenarios are most suited to BYOD?
At the moment most BYOD deployments I see are for voluntary, alternative access methods to existing enterprise applications. Mobile email, contacts and calendar are usually a good starting point closely followed by 'productivity apps' like time recording, expenses, all kinds of approvals and management reports or dashboards. The big advantage of starting with these is that the original access methods provide a safety net while the new service is being fully established. The voluntary usage will also result in a user community consisting of 'early adopters' who will be willing to help iron out any remaining issues before the service goes into mainstream.
Companies applying BYOD concepts to core processes still seem to be the rare exception, but I see no reason why this won't eventually become the mainstream - just like many employment contracts today require employees to provide their own car for business use.
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