Employee-Owned Computer Programs: Diving into Murky Waters

Susan Hall

Will the job of the future require you to bring your own computer, the way you provide your own transportation now?


Call it a mashup of market forces, but that idea has been generating a bit of buzz lately. Among the factors:

  • Workers want to bring their consumer experience with computing into the workplace.
  • More workers than ever work from home or from the road.
  • There are a lot of old corporate machines out there and IT budgets have been too tight to replace them.
  • Companies are looking to cut costs in ways they might not have considered before.

Gartner surveyed 528 IT managers in companies with more than 500 employees during the second quarter about employee-owned computers, sometimes called the "bring your own computer" (BYOC) concept. Among the findings from these companies in the United States, UK and Germany was that 40 percent said their companies have a policy covering that.


Annette Jump, a Gartner research director, who worked on the survey, called that finding "pretty impressive."


"All we were doing was formalizing and controlling this-and promoting it. People are happier, we think there's less risk -- and we think there's financial savings in it for Citrix."

Michael McKiernan
Director of worldwide operations, planning and procurement, Citrix Systems

"Eighteen months ago, most companies had never even thought about this," she says.


At the same time, the survey put the percentage of workers actually using their own machines in 2009, primarily laptops, at only 10 percent, expected to grow to 14 percent by mid-2010.


"It was a cost thing with us. We didn't have to keep buying computers," said Harold Mann of Los Angeles-based Mann Consulting. For about six years, the IT consultancy has offered its 15-person staff the option of using their personal computers with a monthly reimbursement rate.


At the same time, he adds: "This whole work-life balance is totally changing, it's much more fluid."


He says some people would like to get some work done at 9 p.m., while others want more of a clean break between work and their personal lives.


Indeed, some company policies merely allow employees to choose a machine and software from a list of options that can do the job. For instance, Jump said, the Vista Home version can't support a virtualized desktop, the preferred setup for most of these programs, so workers need to have professional-level software.


Citrix Systems adopted a BYOC program after it found 200 non-company-issued machines on its network.


"What we're telling people is: It's already happening. You may think your security prevents this, but you'd be surprised to learn how many iPhones are already connected to your network, how many Macs there are," says Michael McKiernan, Citrix's director of worldwide operations, planning and procurement.


"All we were doing was formalizing and controlling this-and promoting it. People are happier, we think there's less risk -- and we think there's financial savings in it for Citrix."


And handily, Citrix has suggestions about how to achieve remote access, deliver applications over a variety of platforms and offer virtualized desktops, so it has a stake in this. But it's not the only vendor that does so.


Citrix found it wasn't just those Mac-loving Millennials interested in using their own computers. (Though 41 percent of those in the program use OS X.) McKiernan says age had less to do with it than behavior. It might be a worker who wanted all his own music on his machine or an avid gamer who wanted a big-screen laptop. And yes, workers added their own money to the $2,100 stipend Citrix offers to include more bells and whistles on their machines.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Dec 21, 2009 1:23 AM Patrick Knighton Patrick Knighton  says:

Sounds like another way of passing the cost of doing business to the employee. Whats next you get fired becuse you can't afford the newest latest and greatest software, you have to buy your own printer, paper, file cabnit, Where does it stop! If any company wants productivity then they need to invest in thier staff not burdon them. Look back ten years, five years, two years, computers can't keep up. They need to be replaced often and laptops are the worst at upgrading. It's cheaper to replace them then to add new hardware and software. I believe people need the flexibility of working at home and it offsets a little on the load at the office with lights and general use of the office but it needs to be fair across the board. It's like a construction contractor telling his employees they need thier own truck, tools, gas, insurance and they get paid barely enough (or not) to cover the expenses and take a little home.

Jan 4, 2010 5:00 AM User232323 User232323  says:

I've been bringing in my own laptop (a Macbook Pro) for awhile now because of how poorly our Fortune 50 IT department manages the company-owned laptop's resources. I would love to use my company-owned laptop, but it is too difficult to get work done when you have Radia, Antivirus, backup and defrag all running in the background at the same time with no way to control or schedule their startup. Our IT department basically bricks my company-owned machine through its own form of a Denial of Service attack.

Jan 4, 2010 7:25 AM Patrick Knighton Patrick Knighton  says: in response to User232323

I have seen people leveraged against other employees and put in a bad spot with coworkers. When they feel pressured to buy thier own equipment they will go out and get something better that yours. It's easy to do if yours is a year old and they go get one today. But then the table is turned on why do you use something so old and everyone else has the latest and greatest. As in the first post where does it stop? It's  a race to the bottom or a "we can be more efficient if we outsource to India."

Sep 10, 2010 1:40 AM order fulfillment order fulfillment  says:

I think that will not be much of an issue. At least for most of us, because I have not heard of any employee lacking short of a computer! That is the last thing I will hear, at least in this decade. Furthermore, if we look more closely, laptops would be the obvious choice. However, that would mean that battery health is certainly going to be an issue for some of the users, and that would indirectly add doubt to the question whether laptops( our own) will replace the desktops(office ones) of the computer!                                                        


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