BYOD: Moving Beyond the Pros and Cons
Is BYOD a cost saver or a budget buster? Does it actually increase productivity or just ensure that work follows you around 24/7? Is it secure enough to handle sensitive and proprietary data? These are questions companies need to face head-on these days, since BYOD is the norm for a whopping 84 percent of smartphone users, according to IT firm Coalfire.
So what are the answers? It depends on the size and type of the business, and a wide spectrum of other factors — BYOD is still such a broad, nascent trend that it resists simple formulas; and like any disruptive technology, it draws as many haters as lovers.
Ultimately, the devices themselves (or who owns them) have little to do with whether companies become more efficient, collaborative, productive, or profitable by embracing mobility. Business that are focused on how to best manage the goldmines of data flowing through those devices are the ones that will see the big gains. Here’s a roundup of the main arguments on both sides of the BYOD fence — around cost, security, and productivity — and insight on how to navigate each with long-term success in mind.
PRO-BYOD: The foundational argument in favor of BYOD is pretty simple: By allowing employees to use the smartphones and tablets they already own (and love, and feel comfortable with), companies can remove the cost of hardware purchases, thus saving overhead. Cisco, for instance, reported saving 17-22 percent on mobile through BYOD. “We don’t pay for it, and our users are happy. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?” Lance Perry, Cisco’s VP of Information Technology, told CIO.com.
Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group suggested BYOD can also save between $300 and $1,300 annually, per employee, based on things like improved employee retention, improved asset usage, and employee collaboration. But the biggest pro-BYOD argument is that cost savings comes from the gains organizations claim by allowing employees to do work remotely on their own phones and laptops. Easy access to company information from home or on the road allows workers to put in ever-more hours — directly driving at the bottom line.
ANTI-BYOD: Aberdeen’s February study of 100 companies supporting BYOD found that all the costs associated with BYOD — from processing reimbursement payments to IT support, and voice and data plans — actually ended up costing more to a company than issuing a corporate-liable device and plan would. Further, the initial cost savings related to BYOD hardware purchasing is actually a relatively small element of a mobile device program: Gartner studies suggest that 85 percent of the lifetime cost of a device comes in managing maintenance and upgrades, not in the purchase price.
More fodder: IDC mobility analyst Tim Dillon told ZDNet that BYOD initiatives ultimately costs organizations between 7 and 10 percent more than their previous mobile expenditure.
BOTTOM LINE: The arguments around cost ultimately relate to several factors surrounding how companies actually implement BYOD. Certainly things like extended IT support may potentially cost more in a BYOD setting. But as InfoWorld editor Galen Gruman has pointed out, not every company expects its IT staff to be on call to fix broken personal devices. And costs can be contained: A company doesn’t have to pay all or nothing. By setting reimbursement stipend figures that are tailored to employees’ expected usage, and setting clear expectations around support and self-service, many of the BYOD costs can be reigned in.
PRO-BYOD: American workers put in an average of seven hours per week (or 364 hours per year) of “overtime” by checking emails and making calls from their own phones after hours, according to a study released by Good Technology, a large MDM provider. BYOD users are “more likely to have their device with them at all times, not only during work hours, which means they are more accessible and in-touch,” Aberdeen’s Andrew Borg told CIO.com. And allowing employees to ditch a second phone could provide some uptick in productivity, too, notes Mobi Wireless Management’s Brandon Hampton.
ANTI-BYOD: Almost any work an employee can do away from the office on a personal device could be just as easily performed on a corporate-owned device, without the hassle of configuring the “BYO” device to sync with work programs. Also, most BYOD employees use their own to devices merely to synch calendars and check email. Indeed, the most downloaded apps in 2011 were games, not productivity tools.
BOTTOM LINE: Employee “mobility” is clearly a productive endeavor. But BYOD isn’t the only solution for achieving those gains. BYOD should be implemented if it offers ROI. The only way to predict that is to take a hard look at your current mobile program, perform a needs analysis, and calculate the costs, savings, and benefit personally owned devices offer.
A clear-eyed picture of a company’s mobile needs, its current inventory, and its usage and behavior all factor into that. But the bottom line is that without solid policies in place, BYOD exposes companies to increased costs and headaches. With firm governance and a plan, it opens up entirely new possibilities.
PRO-BYOD: Security is typically one of IT’s largest concerns: BYOD exposes potentially sensitive company data to the outside world. Lost phones, stolen phones, phones infected with malware, jailbroken devices — they all pose security risks to the enterprise, these people say.
That said, there are plenty of security platforms out there that can be introduced to a BYOD device fleet. Any standard mobile device management (MDM) product offers IT remote lock/unlock capability, remote swiping, and GPS location tracking, which covers enough security for most problems. “Too many vendors and consultants throw up laundry lists of risks, few of which happen in the real world in any meaningful amount,” Gruman writes on InfoWorld.
More sophisticated security measures like “gating,” adopting thin-client servers and desktop virtualization, and tying access to data to identity and authentication, are all available, as well. BYOD presents new security concerns, but solutions abound.
ANTI-BYOD: Smartphone users are a lot more lackadaisical about even perfunctory security measures than you might think. Roughly half don’t have a password or lock on their phones. Adding third-party security features to personal phones not only blurs the line between company and private data on a personal device (wiping out personal photos and contacts, Big Brother-like views into personal emails and texts, etc.), but as ZDNet’s Larry Dignan notes, it’s also a pain in the neck: “Most people refuse to opt in to locking down personal devices with 10-digit passwords and all sorts of restrictions,” he quoted an anonymous IT manager saying of BYOD. “… People got sick of it.”
THE BOTTOM LINE: Security is going to be a different level of concern for every company and industry. But consider that some of the most sensitive, heavily regulated industries — like finance, healthcare, and several departments of the federal government — have all been active embracers of BYOD. Security is an area where a clear, well-outlined policy is absolutely necessary for any BYOD rollout. Users need to know what they can and cannot do with personally owned devices; what data belongs to whom (which may require signing over rights to certain information); what IT is and isn’t allowed to monitor; and what will happen in the event of a lost or stolen device.
BYOD Faceoff: The Case For and Against (Tech Republic)
Image via SiliconAngle.com.