Where are we on the Bring your own Device Journey?

As I prepared recently to moderate a CIO panel discussion regarding the “bring your own device” (BYOD) journey of three companies, I took a hard look at the current state of BYOD. Before I get to that, let’s set a common definition for BYOD. Wikipedia defines it as the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) to their workplace, and use those devices to access privileged company information and applications. Gartner defines it in a recent Report this way: the ability for users and business partners to leverage personally selected and purchased devices to access business data with the option of including PCs in a BYOD strategy; and the possibility of a company subsidy for the purchase of devices.

So where are we on the journey? For starters, the mobile worker continues to disrupt the status quo, and BYOD is just one example of how Mobile changes the way people work. According to This Report from F5 Networks, it is projected that in 2013, the mobile workforce will reach 1.2 billion, or 35 percent of the worldwide workforce. Many of these workers will use their own devices, and the previously referenced Gartner report estimates that the cost of supporting an individual employee will triple to $300 annually by 2016. But cost will not slow BYOD momentum and there is likely no turning back. A recent Mobile Workforce Report from iPass sheds some light on why:

  • Mobile employees ranked their Smartphone as the most important item in their lives
  • The Smartphone is set to be the universal device
  • It won’t replace your Laptop or Tablet, but it likely replaces your wallet and keys
  • Enterprise usage of iPhones and Android phones is at an all-time high
  • Mobile workers are driving tablet sales
  • 59% of mobile workers say they will spend more time on tablets in 2013
  • Mobile workers favor Wi-Fi over 4G/LTE for speed and access reasons
  • BYOD has driven many employees to work up to 20 additional unpaid hours per week
  • Most mobile employees are online for at least six hours each weekend

So basically, Mobile is pervasive, and while Apple iOS devices have dominated the landscape, the floodgates to an even wider range of personal devices are opening. The popularity of Android phones and tablets is surging, and the emergence of Windows 8 and BlackBerry 10 platforms promises to complicate BYOD initiatives. Interestingly, in the aforementioned panel discussion, there seemed to be an undercurrent against moving to the BlackBerry 10 platform due to the requirement to deploy the new Blackberry Enterprise Server 10. As for the Windows Phone, it continues to rank last out of the major devices among mobile workers.

But even with its pervasiveness there is still so much to learn. The panel members described their approach to reimbursement, but for the most part, no best practices have emerged. Companies in general have little understanding of BYOD costs or ROI, and in the case of the panelists, the move towards BYOD was not based on a business case, but on softer goals like employee satisfaction or attracting and retaining next generation workers. It seems Gartner agrees with this:

“Most leaders do not understand the benefits, and only 22 percent believe they have made a strong business case. Like other elements of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), mobile initiatives are often exploratory and may not have a clearly defined and quantifiable goal, making IT planners uncomfortable” – David Willis, the vice president of and an analyst at Gartner

In a recent Executive presentation on the future enterprise, I mentioned that there are many obstacles yet to be addressed on the BYOD journey, and the CIOs in the room nodded in violent agreement. For instance, as BYOD gains steam, various surveys indicate an ongoing lack of policies, with the root cause attributed to aspects of BYOD running ahead of organizational thinking (i.e. consumerization of business technology, device types, etc.). But BYOD is gaining steam anyway, and Gartner predicts that fifty percent of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes by 2017. According to Gartner, there are active BYOD initiatives in place across businesses and governments of all sizes. But it’s most widespread among large and mid-sized organizations, and although security risks are still a major concern, this Symantec Survey confirms the value of BYOD despite the risk. A majority of organizations report at least one mobile security incident within the past 12 months. The top mobility incidents in that period include:

  • Lost or stolen devices
  • Spam
  • Malware infections
  • Phishing attacks
  • Exposure of confidential information

Recent surveys and BYOD panel experiences indicate that organizations treat personally-owned devices and corporate-controlled devices differently. For example, many organizations do not yet give their employees the same productivity apps on personal devices as they do corporate-owned devices. Surveys indicate that in the past 12 months, the top business applications that employees used their personal devices for were Web browsing, email, contacts, Intranet sites, employee look-up and a calendar application.

Additionally, I see an intrusive and adoption-inhibiting approach to BYOD playing out within many companies. Not surprisingly, executives at these companies express concerns about the low adoption rates for their BYOD programs. Worrying about the loss of personal data, onerous security policies, and an inability to exploit productivity apps could encourage employees to maintain both a personal and business device. Interestingly, none of the companies represented on the recent panel separated personal data from enterprise data. This approach has the drawback of protecting and managing the entire device, rather than just the enterprise data and applications. The F5 Networks report referenced earlier refers to this approach as part of the BYOD 1.0 scheme. There is a school of thought that BYOD 2.0 (2013 and beyond) makes a substantial shift from a device-level focus to an application-level focus. Mobile device management is then supplanted by mobile application management (MAM), and device-level VPNs are replaced by application-specific VPNs.

The panel discussions did surface one consistent trend however: Organizations that have implemented BYOD programs are reporting increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Hard evidence is emerging to support these increased productivity claims in the form of employee time savings. For example, according to this article on the BYOD Payoff, Intel reports an hour savings a day for 23,500 BYOD employees, which amounts to $700 million in added productivity. But this same article calls into question earlier claims that BYOD would save companies money.

So, although it seems like we have been talking about BYOD forever, we are still in the early days of the BYOD journey. But just like many aspects of the emerging digital enterprise, we must move forward to define the future before it defines us.

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