Reports of BYOD's death are greatly exaggerated.
As the end of the year approaches, every analyst and pundit feels the need to make predictions for 2013. A hot take in IT is that 2013 will be the year when the bring your own device (BYOD) hype fizzles. There's even some data to back this prediction up.
I don't buy it. BYOD is going to be around for a while, because it provides the path of least resistance to enterprise mobility.
Who says BYOD is dying?
The recent spate of predictions about BYOD's death began with a November report from Nucleus Research. The Boston-based firm argued that BYOD is more expensive than a corporate-issued mobility program, and as more organizations realize these costs, they'll cut the BYOD cord and move in the corporate-issued direction. That prediction got a boost last week when IDC said IT spending on mobile devices will increase by 20% in 2013 and drive more than half of the IT market's overall growth.
From my own reporting and what other experts have said, I know that BYOD cost savings are more of a myth than a reality. By the time you open up your network and systems to personal devices, implement some sort of management and security features and address unforeseen issues (like WiFi bandwidth consumption), all your "sweet, we don't have to buy any hardware!" savings are long gone. It very well may be cheaper to buy new devices for all your employees and take advantage of manufacturers' and carriers' bulk discounts.
The problem is, cost is only one factor in determining the success or failure of any IT project. Sure, it's a major factor -- especially in the C-suite -- but it's still only one factor. The other major determinant in this era of the consumerization of IT is end-user satisfaction. And in this area, corporate-issued programs can suffer.
Why BYOD will survive
To successfully implement enterprise mobility, it takes a lot of advance planning. What mobile tasks do your end users perform? What apps do they use to complete those tasks? What other features (connectivity, storage space, integration with cloud services, etc.) do they need? If you don't get these answers and address them, you won't get employee buy-in, and your initiative will fail.
To get these answers, however, you'll likely need to conduct surveys, put together focus groups and meet with business leaders to assess current and future needs. And that will be the big holdup for many organizations, which simply don't have the time or up-front resources to conduct that kind of research (or at least to conduct it correctly; asking a couple people, "So, uh, the iPhone's cool, right?" doesn't count).
"If our employees already bring their own devices, why don't we just keep letting them do that?" these companies will say. "At least for a while longer."
Also, what if you conduct the research and find out that employees really only use mobile devices to check email? That's the case in a lot of organizations these days. Is it really worth buying new phones for everyone when their existing devices already have that feature (and built-in management capabilities) through Exchange ActiveSync?
In the long term, a corporate-issued device program probably makes more sense than BYOD. It gives IT more control and saves money. But we're still in the very early stages of enterprise mobility. The use cases aren't always clear, and it takes significant resources -- not just money, but also time and effort -- to get a corporate-issued program off the ground.
Until the market and the technology shake out, BYOD will continue to thrive. It may be a stopgap measure, but it's a very effective one.
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