Among the niggly issues IT organizations are struggling with as they attempt to adjust to the rapid entry of BYOD (bring-your-own-device) practices into the workplace is how to support a large and diverse collection of user-owned computing devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Last December, I wrote a post including a suggestion from Unisys that IT organizations create a "white list" of approved devices for which they'd provide support. Obviously, not all employees would want to stick to the list - and those employees should expect to take a more active role in supporting their devices. In a post written a few months later I shared some suggestions from CITO Research CTO and Editor Dan Woods, who said IT organizations should "be prepared to provide additional training to help desk staff and/or expand it with external resources."
Maybe, but I wondered how many IT organizations would be willing to beef up help desks to deal with user-owned devices. In talking to folks at conferences and when the mobile device topic came up in my interviews (as it increasingly did, no matter what the main subject of the interview was), it sounded to me as if lots of IT organizations were expecting business users to pick up the support slack.
Help desk staff will need to fill a more sophisticated, consulting role, Soderstrom told Computerworld. The example offered in the article is offering expert advice on how to write mobile applications. I wrote about what I called the build-your-own-app trend last spring, sharing Oracle Client Advisor Joe Jorczak's insight that users would begin handling more of their own application development, with IT pros designing the tools, objects and environments that will enable them to do so.
Of course, internal support obligations won't vanish entirely, even with users providing much of the support for their own devices. One of several tips contained in a CIO.com article about 9 things IT needs to know about BYOD is to make it clear to users at the outset that they might have to take a more active role in supporting their own devices. At a law firm mentioned in the article, employees are advised to purchase an extended warranty for their devices. To avoid lost productivity, the firm also makes loaner machines available to attorneys when personal machines are being repaired.
Several folks who left comments about the CIO.com article zeroed in on their support issue, with a few suggesting that help desks should consider beefing up internal knowledge bases to facilitate user self-service and/or enabling community-based support. (I would think internally managed communities would be more helpful in handling issues specific to particular workplaces than the more general online support groups provided by device manufacturers.) These suggestions might help support staffs free up the time needed to take on the more consultative responsibilities mentioned by Soderstrom in the Computerworld piece.