BYOD? Where’s the party?

Well, so, where is the party? No one gets blamed for asking this question. Most of us partygoers have used BYOD on many an occasion, right? Since we are in the realm of the blog, unfortunately there is no party. BYOD for most earthlings would mean ‘Bring Your Own Drinks’.

We can however still have fun in the context of this blog and talk about a very different BYOD – ‘Bring Your Own Device’ for an all day party at work, everyday!

So, what does this mean? The massive proliferation of mobile devices has meant that the customer has a lot of choice in terms of what they want to own as their own very personal phone. And most of them like it that way.

Fast backward – Back in the day, when Blackberry’s and Palm Treo’s were the official mascots of the enterprise, we had them attached to our belts with cool looking leather pouches and so forth. And on the side, we probably had a lousy looking feature phone (yeah, our personal phone) that we chose to hide somewhere far away. Many chose to consolidate their phone numbers to the more cool looking phones.

Today, it’s the land of the smartphones and as I mentioned below, most of us like the myriad choices that we are presented with HTC, Samsung, Apple, Blackberry (maybe) etc. The enterprise also seems to have similar choices although some have not moved away from the Blackberry platform. What this means is that the employee (who also happens to be ‘consumer’) has a choice of either using their personal phones or the handset provided by the enterprise or both. I, for one have two phones now (HTC Sensation and a Samsung Droid Charge) – it drives me nuts, but I have my reasons for keeping the personal and work lines separate.

In the initial days of smartphone revolution, the enterprise decided what phone to pass on to employees. But over the last few years, employees are beginning to assert themselves and are asking (or rather forcing) the enterprise to allow their personal phones to be used as the mascots of the enterprise. And interestingly so, according to IDC, this is being pushed right from the top down. Apparently, executives in love with the iPhones have been pushing their CTO’s and IT organizations to support their phones. What started as an executive benefit is now slowly and steadily becoming the norm. It’s a nightmare for IT – but who cares as long as I don’t have to relinquish my phone.

The enterprise is also realizing that there are some inherent benefits of this model. Some of the benefits include –

  1. The enterprise saves on equipment/warranty/service costs.
  2. Their insurance premiums don’t go up significantly.
  3. Often, the enterprise only covers part of the monthly post-paid costs.
  4. The employee is more responsible (since it’s the employee’s phone).

At the same token, there are risks. Some of them being –

  1. Extension of the IT edge to a lot of heterogeneous devices.
  2. Multiplatform MDM (Mobile Device Management) software is now essential. MDM is not a mature market and is still developing.
  3. Heightened mobile security. Each app download or mobile web browser session is a security risk.
  4. Developing IT policies and a corresponding support structure.

The #1 corporate application on the mobile phone (employee liable or not) is ‘email’. The mobile form factor is not really conducive for productivity based applications to run on the phone. So, IT “s main task is to ensure that corporate email is secure on the mobile client and in the event there are other applications, ensure their safety as well. According to an IDC survey, Mobility IT spend is starting to become a significant portion of the overall IT budget, to the extent where in some cases it is as large as 40% of the total IT spend.

What begins at the top does not necessarily have to flow down. But in this instance, employee liable devices or BYOD is a trend that warrants close observation as it slowly and steadily makes becomes more prevalent. At the very least, it will be a litmus test for corporate IT and will be a potential hunting ground for many software companies seeking to expand their product offerings to a new domain.

BYOD is also the acronym for “Bring You Own Disaster” or “Be Your Own Doctor”, although I wouldn’t always subscribe to the latter. Do you know of any other BYOD acronyms?

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