Organizations: The BYOD Decision Isn't Yours

Carl Weinschenk

BYTE’s Larry Seltzer has a very interesting post that pokes holes in some of the common wisdom surrounding the bring your own (BYOD) trend. He succeeds in planting seeds of doubt.

But the bigger picture, as we’ve stated before, is that BYOD is here to stay. Seltzer’s comments shouldn’t be taken to suggest that BYOD isn’t a prudent strategy and should be avoided. It’s not that simple. Instead, the points Seltzer makes – and the collaborative links that he offers – should be used as input in the broader question of how BYOD should be managed.

In other words, it is useful to go to a beach and study the tide, if the end goal is to determine the best way of controlling erosion and where to put the boardwalk. It is counterproductive to say that the research is to decide if the tide should be allowed.

Seltzer takes on four bits of common wisdom: That BYOD saves money, makes workers more productive, shifts responsibility for the device in the employee’s hands and helps retention.

Again, the point is that each of the holes Seltzer bores into the BYOD balloon (to mix a metaphor) should be taken as information on how to structure a BYOD program, not as a reason to forgo it. For instance, Seltzer said that the thought that BYOD saves money is not true:

BYOD means the company doesn't have to pay for the device, but if you're only passing the device cost on to the employee and reimbursing for the plan, you're probably coming out behind. That's because any money saved on devices will be dwarfed by the higher cost of the reimbursed consumer data plan relative to the discounted cost you would get for a corporate plan, not to mention the administrative burden of expense reimbursement.

Organizations should read that not as a warning to not allow BYOD, but as a hint to work with telecom expense management (TEM) firms and the carriers themselves to equalize, as nearly as possible, the costs of corporate and consumer plans. There also must be ways to at least soften the additional overhead.

Denial of the inevitability of BYOD has many risks. Security, as has been noted before, is high on the list. That point was reaffirmed recently in a study by Coalfire. This report on the study at Cult of the Mac may set the statistic-per-paragraph record. The bottom line is clear:

Another study of the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon concludes that the trend of employees bringing the personal iPhones, iPads, and other devices into the office shows no sign of slowing down. It also confirms previous reports that indicate many personal devices being used in the workplace don’t have even basic security features enabled.

James Kendrick has a related take on the vagaries of BYOD at ZDNet. His position is that an organization that thinks it will save money via BYOD is kidding itself. BYOD, he writes, is only useful if productivity increases. That attribute, unfortunately, is one of the truisms at which Seltzer throws darts.

Both posts are useful and well written. It would be interesting to see what these two analysts think about the BYOD trend if the assumption is made that it is happening for many companies and inevitable for others -- whether organizations’ IT and C-level executives like it or not.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 24, 2012 3:50 AM Bryn Bryn  says:
It would have been good to stick with the rule of defining the abbreviation before using it. The word "device" was left out in the first paragraph. This makes it difficult for anyone new to the idea of BYOD. Might be worth amending the article. Reply

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