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BYOD and UC: Friends or Foes?

Earlier this summer, I sat down to discuss UC adoption hurdles with Michael LaBella, Vice President of Unified Communications at Ronco Communications. After the usual discussion about how there are not enough Lync-trained technical people on the market (big surprise for a UC platform that is only a few years old), the conversation turned to practical hurdles that have held some businesses off from going "all in" with Lync Enterprise Voice. Some of issues are well understood – often relating to network readiness, integration of existing systems, specialized features, user adoption and cost.

However, one issue that Michael pointed out struck me like a lightning bolt – BYOD. Unless you've been living in a cave the last 10 years, you know that businesses that adopt Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allow employees to use their own personal communications and computing devices as part of their regular work environment. Not just smartphones and tablets, but the main computing resource that the employee needs to do the bulk of their work. And in some less common cases, the company even expects the employee to provide that device, paying for it out of his or her own pocket.

A recent report from Gartner estimates that by 2017 half of employers will expect their employees to supply their own devices for work purposes. The Gartner report notes that BYOD is most common in mid-to-large corporations and that well-managed BYOD programs provide a contribution to help the employee pay for the personal device (through subsidies or other compensation). I also suspect the Millennials that have been entering the workforce over the last few years often expect the laptop that took them through college will continue to be their device of choice with their new employer.

As Michael explained, the adoption of BYOD can create chaos –not just from a security standpoint, but potentially creating an issue on the employer's network--a real problem for real-time communications applications, especially UC platforms like Microsoft Lync. Older Windows platforms, Macs and theoretically even Linux machines suddenly could turn up on the employer's network and be asked to perform real-time voice, video and data sharing. With those devices comes an untold number of older or different network device drivers, audio devices, USB versions, any one of which could cause voice and video quality problems, potentially raising a barrier that could prevent a business from adopting full voice-enabled UC (and thus being able to pull the plug on their old PBX).

So I asked Michel, "What's the solution?" His response: "Phones."

Yes, a desktop phone. Whether it's the legacy PBX phone that stays in place purely to play the role as an audio device, or a brand-spanking-new IP Phone, a desktop telephone is predictable, has known capabilities, can be managed by the IT group, and is a whole lot less expensive than providing a new laptop to an employee.

Who knew the answer would be so simple?

Would love to get your thoughts and feedback by commenting below or catch me on Twitter @AlanDPercy or email [email protected]