Monday, January 21, 2013

Pragmatic BYOD - 6 Considerations to Enable Employee-Owned Devices

This blog is about, if nothing else, pragmatism. How do we take the conventional wisdom and best practices of the world outside my company, and make them useful in the real world of supporting real end users. With that in mind, I was annoyed to come across an article on CFO.com (CFO, Don't Buy That Phone!) which presents the benefits of BYOD, or "Bring Your Own Device", with the rosiest of rose-colored glasses. A particular paragraph got my attention.
Jim Buckley, CFO of mobile-device management firm MobileIron, points out other savings: “In a BYOD program, end users take more responsibility for their devices, taking the initiative to fix them themselves rather than involving support, and, because it’s their personal device, they take better care of them.” Another cost benefit Buckley identifies is that “companies no longer have to deal with the device life cycle. Smart phones and tablets generally change every 18 months. That’s a lot of new technology the enterprise no longer has to keep up with.”
This is consistent with the conventional wisdom around BYOD right now: That BYOD inherently reduces the cost of IT support because users will be more prone to take care of themselves. I ran that by one of our service desk reps, and he just started laughing. Uncontrollably.
For BYOD to have any chance of driving real business value, several other things must also be done.
  1. You must invest in a robust mobile device management (MDM) system, that allows you to keep corporate data and apps secure, regardless of the device being used. Good MDM tools do exist, but they take money to buy and people to maintain the system and support the end users.
  2. You must invest, possibly significantly, in the technology infrastructure to make the data and apps available to a broad, diverse set of devices, with users needing to access the systems from anywhere. Cloud will help with that, and will help a lot. How many companies can make their legacy systems available in the cloud quickly and securely? We're moving it that direction, but it will take time, money, and people to get there.
  3. Unless all your legacy systems and data already exist in a cloud-accessible app, you must invest heavily in virtualization technologies. You are probably providing some virtual services already, but just wait. The investment is about to get huge.
  4. Who owns the device? The "YO" in BYOD stands for Your Own, meaning that we are frequently talking about a device owned by the employee themselves. This isn't a shared assumption in many cases, however, so policies must clearly identify ownership. At the very least, identify the differences in expectations and support between employee-owned and business-owned devices.
  5. Expect investment in support services to increase in the near term. This is not like letting a corporate VIP use their MacBook instead of your standard HP laptop. You've probably invested in a highly standardized environment, which allowed you to minimize the FTE needed to support desktops and laptops. Now you have hundreds of different devices that employees may use, and they will expect you to know how to assist them with each and every one.
  6. Keep expectation-setting positive. The last message you want to send your business partners is that IT needs to limit their (presumed) productivity. Start talking about what can be done. For example, you could create an internal blog of the adventures of a user's BYOD journey.
Don't get me wrong. BYOD is a necessary evolution of knowledge work. It is not a fad, and it is not going away. What does concern me is the sense that CFOs can just start allowing users to bring their own devices, and we can instantly reduce a few IT support headcount, or reallocate them to growth-enablement roles. Hey, these devices support themselves! When they need help, the users can just go to the service provider or manufacturer, right?
BYOD, cloud, mobile, consumerization ... whatever you want to call this wave ... it will soon become mainstream, standard operating procedure. This is a very good thing, which will provide significant value to most organizations. It opens up knowledge workers to more individual control, and more creativity, leading to better ways to achieve results. Don't be afraid.