The Year of Reckoning for BYOD

The Year of Reckoning for BYOD

Ojas Rege, VP Strategy, MobileIron

Google search for “BYOD” returns 8.7 million results. “Bring-your-own-device” is clearly a hot topic. Many companies in North America either have a BYOD program for mobile devices or are considering one.

The roots of BYOD stretch back to the very first BlackBerry devices being purchased by executives before their IT department supported them. But BYOD only became a major trend over the last five years when consumers started buying iPhones, iPads, and Android devices and then expecting to be able to use them for work. And the recent email situation with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly put BYOD squarely in the public spotlight.

Today, in 2015, BYOD is entering the awkward adolescence phase and we should expect both great successes and embarrassing failures as well-designed programs flourish and ad-hoc initiatives fail.

The Failed Programs

Many companies created their BYOD programs to save money and get out of the business of buying smartphones for their employees. These companies viewed cost saving as the primary benefit and rushed to create policies and processes without thinking through user behavior or long-term sustainability.

“Not all companies are ready for BYOD. That’s ok. It’s better to not launch a program than launch one that fails because the company is not ready”

They asked employees to sign scary legal agreements. They were not transparent about, and often didn’t consider how, the privacy of personal data would be preserved. They implemented restrictive security policies limiting what personal apps employees could download. They let cost and security trump user experience and transparency in their BYOD rollouts.

In 2015, these programs will publically fail because employees will reject them.

These companies will not get the adoption or cost saving they were expecting and will conclude, “BYOD was a bad idea.”

Gartner, Inc. calls this the “trough of disillusionment,” when the reality of a hot technology cannot meet the expectations of the organization either because those expectations are inflated or because they are fundamentally misaligned.

The Successful Programs

On the other hand, many companies started BYOD programs understanding that the core goal is employee satisfaction, not cost saving. Giving employees access to the tools of their choice to do their jobs is the harder-to-quantify but much more sustainable value of a BYOD program.

These programs communicated clear privacy policies, provided easy access to important company resources, and established a security model to protect enterprise data without interfering with user experience. These programs also took more internal investment to launch. But they aligned IT and user expectations and gave themselves a much higher chance of success.

In 2015, these programs will flourish.

So when you hear about a company doing BYOD, ask “how does the program deliver value to employees?” You will find both successful and failed programs to be tremendous sources of learning because, inevitably, the former put user experience as their top goal while the latter did not.

Six Steps for a Sustainable BYOD


Over the last several years, I have talked to hundreds of companies designing BYOD programs. Here are six steps I see most commonly in successful programs:

1. Don’t overestimate your com­pany’s risk tolerance. Your com­pany’s appetite for risk will de­termine how your security team will respond to your BYOD goals and how much pushback you will get for policies de­signed to maximize user ex­perience. Not all companies are ready for BYOD. That’s ok. It’s better to not launch a program than launch one that fails because the company is not ready.

2. Understand your customer. The customer of BYOD is not finance or IT. It’s the employee. The program must meet the needs and expectations of end users. IT should support the devices end user own with the services end users want. Test each component of the program carefully. Ask your users what they think of a stipend payment model. Share with them a draft legal agreement and see if they panic. Understand their privacy concerns. Adding one or two employee representatives to the BYOD deployment team will give you invaluable insight into device preferences, support needs, and communication requirements.

3. Go cross-functional early. BYOD is as much an HR initiative as a technology program. Giving employees choice changes culture. Get early buy-in and alignment across company func­tions, from executive management, HR, legal, finance, and IT. This support is critical for securing adequate program funding and commitment.

4. Phase the rollout. After your program goals, policies, processes and technical infrastructure have been established, you can begin a phased rollout. This way, you allow a small subset of users to test the program and provide feedback on how to improve performance, support, and other issues that you might not otherwise discover.

5. Focus on sustainability. The work of sustaining the program starts on day one, by preparing to transition BYOD services from the “Build” team (engineering) to the “Sustain” team (operations) once deployment is complete. This transition includes knowledge transfer, documentation review, help desk training, and escalation workflow. This process can be labor-intensive, especially when transitioning to outsourced support centers.

6. Practice self-reliance. In a BYOD program, the old-school model of helpdesk calls and tickets gives way to a new era of employee self-service. Although the need for an IT helpdesk will never go away, the program should give employees the ability to resolve the majority of incidents without helpdesk intervention.

“I am My Own CIO”

BYOD allows employees to use the tools of their choice to do their jobs. Each individual becomes his or her own CIO, relying in frequently on IT. Such a model only works if the organization is willing to commit to a security and operations approach that focuses on enablement instead of restriction.

However, not all companies are ready for BYOD. It requires a cultural commitment as well as the appropriate investment in people, process, and technology.

2015 is the year of reckoning for BYOD. The rate of employee adoption will make it very clear which companies have a true BYOD strategy and which have only an opportunistic, short-term program.

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