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Full circle BYOD

Learn to deal wisely with the bring your own device phenomenon.

Read time 4min 30sec

In the beginning, mobile computing was relegated to cellphones and two-way communications. These were issued by companies to the end-users, and full control of the information and usage of those assets was maintained by them.

The company was also responsible for the upgrade cycle of the devices as well as damages, insurance, warranty claims, and the cost of the voice plan and data packages. When smartphones were introduced into the market, they changed the way consumers interacted with their devices, but the additional charges for a smartphone plan compared to a traditional phone plan was prohibitive to companies. This started the trend of end-users desiring to use their personal devices in the work environment.

Consumerisation as a phenomenon has completely changed the computing landscape of today's companies. Since the introduction of high-powered mobile computing devices, such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, employees have relentlessly expressed their desire to incorporate these new mobile computers into their daily work functions.

Policy and procedure

Aware of this new trend in technology, companies performed extensive research into all aspects of a functional bring your own device (BYOD) policy. The overall goal was to determine the effects, both good and bad, these devices might have on their environments. Testing how the devices would affect the environment included security, compliance liabilities, known cost-factors, and the anticipated support needs of utilising these devices in the work arena. Initial test results were compelling; the opportunity to reduce costs in the mobile computing market for companies was convincing enough for a large percentage to agree to the inclusion of a BYOD policy.

As time passes, with more actual data amassed, companies are not realising the benefits originally identified. Support and maintenance for multiple platforms is proving more difficult than initially anticipated. The privacy of an end-user's device versus the corporate data maintained on that device has become an increasingly sensitive area for companies to navigate. In addition to the data control issue is the overestimation of projected cost savings for mobile computing programs.

While it is true that data plans and upfront costs are reduced, the support necessary for multifaceted mobile computing programs within companies has increased. With all factors combined, most companies are unable to justify a completely free BYOD environment. It is for this reason that BYOD is soon to come full circle.

Regain the rule

Just as companies had gradually relinquished control to the end-users for their mobile device computing needs, they now recognise a need to reclaim some of that control. It is not justifiable to have a completely free BYOD environment for a company to maintain, and still achieve ample protection. This doesn't mean BYOD will go away, but indications are that companies will place limitations of what devices can be used within the environment, and what those devices can be used for. By limiting the BYOD services allowed, costs such as training and maintenance for those are lessened.

Support and maintenance for multiple platforms is proving more difficult than initially anticipated.

The benefits of these devices are best achieved through two organisational processes: education and policy. Education of the BYOD process within the company, including the changes that will take place when the new BYOD process is implemented, is instrumental to achieving the highest rate of end-user compliance. A company that invests in the education of personnel will have more end-user support and a widespread adoption of the new process.

Policy changes are also important and need to be communicated to end-users so they can understand the changes taking place. There are a few methods for incorporating policy changes that increase the success of adoption:

* Communication of the policy needs to be done in a manner that is simple, clear and concise to be understood by end-users. Inclusion of too much legal language in the policy makes it difficult to understand and decreases the chances for a smooth adoption.
* There should be a timeframe for adoption. The policies need to be explained to the end-users in advance so that preparations for the changes can be made. Allowing a time period for acclimation increases the chances for policy adoption.
* Policies should not be complicated. Trying to enact a policy that is overreaching will decrease adoption chances due to the complexity of the policy goal. Developing a policy that is focused and impactful greatly increases the rate of policy adoption.

Companies are in search of enterprise actions that provide BYOD solutions for their environments, which are effective and provide the benefits originally anticipated. A completely free BYOD environment does not lend itself to that realisation.

By placing limitations on tools, devices, software, usage, etc, the company has better control over the process and can historically track each successful function in its environment. The cycle of BYOD and consumerisation is truly starting to come full circle.

Jenny Schuchert

Content and development director and educator with the International Association of IT Asset Managers.

Jenny Schuchert is content and development director and educator with the International Association of IT Asset Managers. She has 15 years of experience in IT asset management, including software publisher leadership roles and global IT business consulting including CA Technologies, Eracent, and Janus Technologies.

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