Does BYOD save money, yes or no?

People love to talk about how bring-your-own-device will impact companies financially. Two common arguments are: BYOD will save companies money because they won't have to pay for phones anymore.

People love to talk about how bring-your-own-device will impact companies financially. Two common arguments are:

  • BYOD will save companies money because they won’t have to pay for phones anymore.
  • BYOD will cost companies money because they’ll have to support all these new devices.

Let’s take a closer look at these two points.

BYOD will save companies money because they won’t have to pay for phones anymore.

The concept is simple. A company might think, “Hey, this BYOD thing is getting popular. Why don’t we just have our employees use their own phones? We’ll save gobs of money!”

The problem is that money to pay for phones still has to come from somewhere, so no money is actually being saved. Instead the cost is merely being shifted onto the employees—and this can backfire.

First of all, it assumes that everybody has a personal phone in addition to their work phone. Certainly there was a period when having a corporate BlackBerry and a personal iPhone seemed pretty common, but today, there are just as many people that use a company-provided phone as their own phone. If these users suddenly have this taken away from them, they’ll just be let with a feeling of “Darn it, there’s another example of our company being cheap!” Even if a company gives their users a stipend to pay for their own phones, they’re still missing out on potential volume discounts.

Employment benefits come and go throughout the years as trends and economic conditions change, and that’s perfectly fine. However, using BYOD as an excuse to take away benefits is misleading.

This goes to show that there are two categories of BYOD: There’s grassroots BYOD, where employees bring in their personal phones, tablets, and computers on their own (this can be informal and under the radar, or it can be formally sanction. Then there’s compulsory BYOD like we just talked about. (Maybe this should be called something other than BYOD?) It’s important to acknowledge the differences.

It will cost money to support personal devices!

Another argument is that users bringing in personal devices will cost money because your company will have to spend time and money upgrading networking infrastructure, implementing enterprise mobility management technology, and supporting multiple platforms and dozens of different types of devices.

The main problem with this concept is that it confuses the question of who owns a device with consumerization and enterprise mobility in general. Some people still associate the issues brought up by iPhones, iPads, and Android with BYOD. BYOD may have caused these issues 4 or 5 years ago, but now these devices are just as likely to be corporate-owned as they are to be personally-owned. The next step is to acknowledge that users will treat their devices exactly the same, no matter who bought them.

You can choose how you want to deal with mobile devices (just use Exchange ActiveSync, use MDM, use MAM, develop your own in-house apps, deploy modern file syncing,  beef up your networking, make a rule that users shouldn’t leak data, or do nothing at all) and whatever you choose is fine. The important thing to remember is that the starting point should be the same, no matter who’s paying for the devices.

Another issue is that people are using the term BYOD in a generic way to refer to the consumerization of IT and enterprise mobility. You can see that it’s important to specify exactly what concept you’re talking about!

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