Does mandatory BYOD make sense to you?

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy May 5, 2013
Bring Your Own Device sounds alluring but as Gartner predicts mandatory BYOD policies emerging in half of businesses by 2017, it is time to think through this disruptive change. We offer eight questions you will need to consider.

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) 'movement' got a fillip earlier in the week when analyst firm Gartner declared that BYOD will be mandatory by 2017 among half of employers. Before digging into this topic it is worth saying that Gartner is well known for making headline grabbing statements that serve to get people to sit bolt upright and go 'what?' but which are not as well thought through as they at first seem.

First, remember this is a prediction based upon a poll. It is not a done deal. Given the fluid state of mobile devices of all classes, there is no real way to even know what devices we wil all be toting in a few years' time. Right now

Commentary varies on this topic but I was particularly taken by James Kendrick who said:

Every time I've written articles about the bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) movement I have approached it from the angle that it's an employee-driven movement, a result of folks wanting to use their favorite gadgets. I may have been wrong to do that. Astute readers have pointed out that companies would soon take advantage of BYOD and force workers to use their own gear, whether they want to or not. It turns out they might be right.

Does this make sense?

At a basic level I can see companies wrestling with numerous problems with this kind of policy. While the potential savings in operational cost may be significant (Gartner worries about application costs on mobile spiralling to $300 pa per device) I wonder how many employees will happily stump up for a device they own but ultimately cannot control and for which they are expected to bear a large share of cost. Contrary to what some observers think, a computing device cannot be equated to a hammer or saw.

There is little question that as we move more closely to digital existences, the cost of communications generally will become a significant burden.  Anecdotally, I don't know any colleague who can tell me they feel they have their comms cost under good control. A combination of frequent plan changes, complex plans that penalise early switching, throttled services, termination fees - the list of hidden costs grows as the telcos fight against raging commoditization. On the other hand, businesses can usually negotiate plans that provide a fair level of cost certainty. So while the BYOD concept has  allure for employees, I don't see it as sustainable.

Needless to say, Gartner sniffs opportunities to point up the many security, governance, contract and policy topics that are bound to bedevil any BYOD strategy. You can be sure that the Gartner salespeople will be knocking on many a CIO's door ready to flog research and consulting. The good news is they have some free advice to offer.

Without wishing to step into this quagmire, here are eight high level questions worth bearing in mind by any business manager considering BYOD as an option:

  1. What is your business case for BYOD? (Hint: if it's cost alone then you might be missing the point.)
  2. Can you construct a fully costed BYOD business case? (This will have many dependencies - get your finance team on the case)
  3. Could a voluntary BYOD policy work for you? (Maybe not optimal but more likely to be employee friendly and capable of being 'sold' by HR)
  4. What portion of cost will you expect employees to bear? (This is the elephant in the room) 
  5. How will you secure devices for corporate data? (More to the point, can you do so without making device use un-necessarily difficult)
  6. What range of devices will you support? (The landscape is complex and not getting any easier to understand) 
  7. To what extent will you support devices under a BYOD policy? (It might be a higher level than you imagine)
  8. To what extent do you need your workforce to carry more than one device? (More devices mean more things to think about) 

Each of these questions has a direct impact on how you work your way through the maze of issues that will arise.

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