A Message to IT About BYOD: Resistance is Futile
Having the right management tools in place before supporting BYOD can significantly raise the chances of having a successful deployment.
The phrase "resistance is futile" became most popular from the "Star Trek: Next Generation" series when the Borg would attack an enemy ship and take it over. They would warn that "resistance is futile" and then take the ship and all its people over. In fact, even the mighty Jean Luc Picard found that resistance was indeed futile and wound up becoming "Locutus of Borg" for a bit of time.
I see a similar trend here when it comes to consumer devices in the enterprise. The user panel at Enterprise Connect was quite eye opening. Here we have some high-level IT executives, historically the final decision makers on all things technology in a company, and three of the five seemed to be cool on the concept of bring-your-own-device.
Resistance really is futile because the pressure for consumer technologies is coming from the highest levels of the organization. When I was in corporate IT we could always hide behind company policy and know that the C-Level executives would have our back. If I had a user ask to utilize a consumer device and if I didn't want to support it, I'd just tell the CEO that it posed a risk to the organization and he'd back me. This was because consumer devices in the workplace were an exception.
Today, consumer devices are the norm and it's the CEOs that are pushing for BYOD plans. IT leaders tell me there's a lot of, "I don't care if it's our corporate policy, find a way to make it work!" commentary from the upper ranks of corporate management. Pressure for support is coming from other business leaders as well. For example, a rather large enterprise that I'm familiar with had made the decision to lock down the environment and not allow any consumer devices. Well, the company started rapidly losing employees to more progressive organizations and then the human resources department got involved to find out why the high churn rate. After the feedback was given that people don't want to work for a stodgy company that doesn't allow any kind of user choice, HR pushed hard to have a consumer device policy put in place.
Another example I can think of is another US company that had made the decision to not allow any consumer devices. That was the decision made by the IT department. Well, the company had a phenomenal year and the CEO wanted to make a nice gesture and thank all the workers, so he gave an iPad to every employee. That's over 6,000 iPads in one fell swoop. To use another Star Trek analogy, if you remember in the "Wrath of Khan," project Genesis created life from lifelessness. The CEO of this company created consumerization from consumerization-less-ness.
The commonality with these two examples is that the IT department had made the decision to not support BYOD and then had it dropped on them by another company leader. That's why I think resistance is futile. It's going to happen in most organizations, so starting to plan for it as soon as possible gives IT the best shot of being the hero.
One cautionary note, though: If companies are going to support it, they need to commit and fully support it. A recent survey we did at ZK Research found that 62% of organizations "kind of" support it. That means they know it's there and either ignore it or provide limited support, which I think is the wrong strategy. Once you decide to support consumer technologies, you need to go "all in" to ensure a high-quality experience.
A number of companies that I know of do a good job of onboarding the device and that's it. So the device gets on the network. Now what? Even a small number of users that use Facetime can cripple the network and hamper the performance of other applications. Having the right management tools--ones that provide end-to-end visibility--in place before supporting BYOD can significantly raise the chances of having a successful deployment.
It's important to understand what the "right" management tools are. I believe there's a significant change going on in network management right now. Products like HP's OpenView and CA's Unicenter are long past their prime and just do not provide the end-to-end visibility necessary to manage BYOD. Instead, look for next-generation tools like NetScout, Xangati and Riverbed (Cascade) that manage "user experience" rather than IT elements.
So resistance is truly futile when it comes to BYOD. It's inevitable for most companies, but success depends on the proper tools to optimize the users' experience.