Lessons Learned from a Bring Your Own Device Project
I spent a lot of last summer working with a large enterprise IT department transition from company-owned Blackberries to employee-owned devices. Here's what I took away from the experience.
I spent a lot of last summer working with a large enterprise IT department on their transition from company-owned Blackberry devices to employee-owned devices. This was a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) project much like many companies are now considering. Being involved in the real-life execution of the strategy is, to say the least, a learning experience. This article is titled "Lessons Learned," but it does not include every lesson learned. That would be too much reading! Instead, I have listed some key points that are likely to apply to most enterprises considering a BYOD plan.
1. Not Everyone Wants to Bring Their Own Device
It is probably hard for some of us to imagine, but not every employee is into smart devices. A lot of employees do not want to worry about picking a device and a plan. The smartest phone they have is the one provided by the company, and they have no desire to pay out of their own pocket for anything else. As an example, while communicating the policy to groups of employees, I saw two contrasting reactions on the same day. One extreme was a couple of employees who swore that they would never turn in their Blackberry and Air Card to be part of our little BYOD shell game. The other extreme was a new employee who was already an iPhone/iPad enthusiast and was delighted that he was going to get reimbursed for using the devices he already had. Be prepared to have good options and answers for both extremes.
2. You Don’t Have to Support Every Phone
Often we hear the BYOD concept stated as "any device the employee chooses". There are a lot of factors to consider when vetting which devices to support. If you are using a Mobile Device Management tool (MDM), the MDM provider will provide a list of devices that they support. That's a good way to start your own shorter list.
Next you'll want to determine the version of iOS, Windows or Android you will support. Don't decide that you'll support "3.x or better"; "better" is not always better. Different versions of operating systems offer varying encryption and VPN capabilities. With Android, even different devices using the same version work quite differently.
After you narrow down device models based on compatibility, you'll want to determine what features most employees will need. If employees need tethering or wireless hotspot capabilities, make sure that the devices they can choose from will support it. Finally, it's a good idea to weed out any flimsy phones that you would not want to recommend that anyone purchase for the workplace. Even though employees are choosing, you are still the expert on what works for your environment.
Some organizations have a very short list of devices. For example, Nike Inc. has a well-publicized BYOD strategy. They chose to begin by only supporting iPhones and iPads. This allows them to still manage expectations for compatibility, even though employees are providing the device. Nike's plan is to add other devices as they are tested for compatibility.
One advantage to having a short list of supported devices is that self-support will be simpler. Many companies rushing to a BYOD-model plan to rely on "device champions", i.e., device enthusiasts who help other employees with issues through support forums, wikis, etc. The fewer devices that are in use in your enterprise, the more likely that this model will lead to enough content to actually provide answers specific to the same device.