The Simple Equation for BYOD Success

One of the most striking features of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement is the velocity which with it emerged. While the Google Trends chart below tracks searches for the term, the graph mirrors the rapid rise of BYOD in the real world, from a faint murmur to a full roar almost overnight.

As the chart shows, in a nine-month window from September 2011 to June 2012, Google searches for the phrase “BYOD” increased by more than a factor of eight. MarketWatch picked up the story that June, and less than a year later, in May 2013, ZDNet quoted Gartner as proclaiming that BYOD would be “mandatory” for enterprises by 2017.

BYOD hasn’t been a gradual trend that business and IT leaders had the luxury of contemplating and rolling out in a deliberate manner; it burst upon organizational consciousness suddenly, with the response of most enterprises transforming from resistance to embrace with corresponding speed.

Now, a mere 18 months later, the general enterprise view of BYOD (your mileage may vary, of course) is already impressively balanced and nuanced. Organizations acknowledge that the phenomenon has its positive and negative attributes.

On the plus side, as noted by Daniel Newman on the Millennial CEO blog, device integration has been simplified, and employers understand how BYOD can reduce costs and increase employee satisfaction.

But on the flipside are continuing concerns over security, compliance, and data retrieval; “if an employee leaves or is let go the data that resides on the personal device will need to be retrieved…The good news for IT departments is this isn’t really a new challenge. In many organizations that have webmail interfaces, people have been ‘popping’ email to separate accounts where they can access them from a personal device. What does need to happen is this needs to continue to be better managed to make sure important and sensitive documents aren’t left out there after the person has parted ways from the organization.”

On balance, however, employees, enterprises and IT groups agree that the advantages outweigh the concerns, as BYOD improves worker productivity and business competitiveness. As reported on Smart Enterprise Exchange, according to a recent CDW study, “89% of IT professionals polled support employees using ‘personally-owned mobile devices for work.’ And 85% of IT pros agreed that using such devices made their companies more efficient.”

In addition, 60% of survey respondents said that BYOD improved communication between field and office personnel; 60% said it increased availability to customers; and 53% said it enabled better customer service. Yet despite these advantages, only about half of IT managers said their companies “had a strategy in place to effectively manage and secure the additional, personally-owned devices.”

The imbalance quantified above remains the fundamental obstacle to BYOD success: the desire of employees to use their personal devices at work, and the recognition by business leaders of the advantages of enabling this, remain ahead of the capability of organizations to develop and implement proper policies and processes for effective management of this environment.

In mathematical terms, therefore, the key to BYOD success is to:

set preparation = enthusiasm

Preparation starts with developing a BYOD policy that provides employees with the “guiderails” necessary to support compliance and data security without being overly restrictive.

BYOD success is also supported by enhancements to the corporate technology environment that enable employees to easily register their devices through an intuitive a self-help portal, coupled with software that uses that information to provision appropriate and secure application access, and trigger remote installation of required software to those devices.

The result is an environment in which enterprises realize the cost, productivity and competitiveness benefits of BYOD while maintaining compliance, protecting corporate data, and minimizing help desk calls through intuitive self service.

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