Asking the Right Questions About BYOD

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Five Tips to Brave the BYOD Boom

There is a cottage industry developing in companies surveying IT and security experts to ask their opinions on bring your own device (BYOD). It can be argued that there is a cottage industry to that cottage industry in bloggers interpreting the results. If so, I am a member.

In any case, a new survey was released by Mimecast, a cloud-based company that supports Microsoft Exchange and Office 365 on the topic. eWeek reports that the questions were posed to 500 IT professionals and administrators. Mimecast found that 47 percent think BYOD is important or highly important to the enterprise, 21 percent say it is a risk and 26 percent don't let employees participate. The survey found that 50.7 percent saw personal devices as a necessity for productivity, 7.9 percent said they are detrimental and 74 percent think security is the biggest challenge.

In a sense, those numbers don't matter. Discussing how important BYOD is to an organization and the risks involved in it could create a false sense that the IT department has a say in whether it will happen or not. Of course, organizations have no such power.

People have brought, are bringing and will bring their personal devices to work. If they are the sort of people who watch their pennies closely, they will find a way to T&E their expenses if no official way is put fourth by the firm. Sensitive company data will be left in restaurants and cabs. So the parts of these surveys that ask IT and security personnel or upper-level management questions around whether BYOD should be allowed or not are wasting everyone's time. It is allowed - the employees are allowing it.

Those numbers matter in terms of determining how IT folks are thinking about BYOD and helping those who are struggling with the concept handle it better. It would be interesting to find out what those 7.9 percent of folks who think BYOD is detrimental to productivity are thinking. Indeed, Macworld addressed the issue and comes to the conclusion that BYOD indeed does improve productivity. It doesn't seem to be a slam-dunk, though - especially if the program is not well run. Some of the concerns probably focus on the close proximity of work- and pleasure-related apps and functions and the ease with which employees can move from a sales report to "Angry Birds."

Likewise, 26 percent think that security is not the biggest risk. It would be interesting to see why.

The case for BYOD is a bit more nuanced than it sometimes seems. For instance, it is assumed that BYOD saves the organization money. After all, capex expenditures on mobile devices no longer exists. But this ZDNet post suggests that this isn't necessarily the case. However, the Blackpool Council in the UK has implemented BYOD and finds the opposite to be true, at least according to Tony Doyle, the head of ICT services. He said that expenditures actually are more once mobile device management and help desk costs are factored in. CIO made much the same point earlier this month.

The bottom line is that IT and security staffs must operate from a mindset of BYOD being a fait accompli. Acting as if they have a choice in allowing or disallowing some form of BYOD is a big mistake. The best approach is to accept it - and make it better.

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