Will You Outgrow Your BYOD Program?
If you implement BYOD the right way, you'll be able to rein it back in if you need to.
At a recent conference, I participated in a panel discussion about the pros and cons of Bring Your Own Device programs. One question that was asked was, "Once you have implemented BYOD, is it possible to reverse the policy?" Unlike other IT infrastructure services, when it comes to mobility, the investment in end user devices represents the majority of the expense, at least for now, and the lifecycle of that investment is only two to three years. Does this mean that a company could offer BYOD for one or two device lifecycles, possibly save some money on phones, and then take back the policy if it does not work anymore?
Reasons You Would Outgrow Your Program
Why would the employee-liable device program (i.e. BYOD) that you worked so hard to plan and implement not fit anymore? There are many reasons, ranging from the policy simply being a poor fit to begin with, to changes in technology and requirements that cause the company to outgrow even a carefully planned strategy.
For example, what if it turns out that it is more expensive to support employee-owned devices than company-provided devices? This is an unpopular proposition, given that so many BYOD programs were initially justified by claims for lower support costs, but it could happen. It's cheaper to provide a $500 device than it is for an employee to be unable to work, so support still is critical if the device provides connectivity into IT services; and it is cheaper to support a standardized device with standard applications than it is to support a variety of consumer devices with potentially conflicting apps. It may be possible that some IT groups decide to rein in control on their devices in the future, ironically to save money.
As much as security concerns have been in the forefront of employee-liable device "gotchas", this may turn out to be one of the easiest problems to resolve. Many tools are already available for mobile device management that do a good job of segregating data, enforcing policies and selectively wiping information. It's a competitive market for the tools, and as a result they are improving all the time.
If a BYOD program is limited to delivering email and calendar services to a personal device, there will be effective security solutions. However, as with almost all IT systems, application requirements may outgrow current security solutions. Consequently, this is where your company may outgrow its own BYOD program.
Enterprise Mobile Apps
Company sponsored enterprise mobile applications for the most part are not being developed with personal (i.e., employee-owned) devices in mind. Communications Advantage's (my company's) consulting practice focuses on communication and infrastructure strategies more than application development, but because of the dependency on applications in developing an enterprise mobile technology strategy, I have had a decent amount of exposure to a mixture of enterprise mobile application initiatives.
In one case, an electronic "brochure" was developed which could be sent to sales prospects. It added the contact name to a database in order to send product updates to the recipient, in compliance with that industry's safety regulations. This was built for company-provided tablets even though the company had a BYOD program.
In the next case, at the CTIA Wireless conference in San Diego, Jon Merritt, Sr. Manager of Flight Operations Technology for United Airlines, showcased the company's tablet-based flight manual. This easily-updated flight manual saves money, and even saved weight on each flight compared to the 45 pounds of documentation that a pilot used to have to carry on board prior to having the tablets.
All the contents are documented for submission to the FAA for approval. Due to FAA requirements, pilots are not permitted to download non-approved applications, including games (it is comforting to know that there are not four hour long Tetris tournaments happening in-flight, with the plane on auto-pilot).
Again, with this application, employee owned devices were considered, and then decided against. Mr. Merritt mentioned that in some cases the pilots wanted to use their own tablets. Beyond the regulatory hurdles that drove United Airlines to deploy the program on company-liable tablets, I would bet it was also just a lot easier to support on a controlled device, and that the majority of the project costs were not the iPads.
Next page: Different Mobile Applications Platforms