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The Good and the Bad of BYOD

The concept of “Bring Your Own Computer” to work is gaining momentum in the industry, with more organizations allowing employees to determine what end node device they want to use to perform their duties.  The potential benefits include:

  • Better matching of user requirements and skill to device features/functions
  • Lower cost of employee onboarding – providing a per diem approach rather than executing on a traditional provision – image –deploy –  train regiment
  • Ability to attract more tech-savvy hires by offering more flexibility in device choice and usage
  • Higher end user satisfaction by eliminating the “CI-No” approach of locking down systems, strict policies related to the device itself, etc.

Now, there are also potential challenges, and they could include help desk / user support issues on unfamiliar hardware, compatibility issues at the OS or application level, and a dissolving of centralized IT controls.  The real question is, as with any other technology fork-in-the-road, do the benefits outweigh the costs?

The first step in considering a BYOC program is to validate the above potential benefits.  Ask the following questions:

Will my users be more productive if they have flexibility in device choice?  If so, what use-cases does it apply to the most?

Can I guarantee the safety of my data, my network, and the compliance requirements of my business and customers?

Will this result in improved sanity for my IT staff or drive them over the edge?

Does the concept allow me to truly reduce costs, become more efficient, and more attractive to talent?

How adaptable and responsible are my end users when it comes to technology?

Next, consider the technical implications.  In order to provide for the flexibility at the end node, you need to establish standards for delivery of application and data in the data center.  This may be via a secured remote access solution that limits the integration vectors of the end node, or it may be an application or desktop virtualization technology.  And don’t forget our friend the "Cloud."  The business will need to be convinced that reduced controls on the end node are offset by enhanced security in the data center.

Support is the third leg of this stool.  Will you be solving support issues or introducing new voids in your support model?  While you can argue that removing IT from the decision on what device alleviates IT’s responsibility for support, in the real world you will still get the call, and will still have to assist on issues related to connectivity, usability, performance, and security.

Assuming you can overcome the business and technical challenges that would enable a BYOC program, you still have consider the impact of that program at an HR and legal level.  Is it concerning to your business if the user conducts non-business tasks on the same device used for corporate functions?  What if those tasks were personally or professionally offensive?  And, how will you know and/or measure them?

At the end of the day, a large component of BYOC comes down to trust.

  • Trusting your users to conduct themselves in a manner aligned to the corporate mission and business objectives, both in time and in bearing.
  • Trusting that they will make good decisions on device selection based on their business requirements and not just because it’s the latest thing on the market.

In a manner of speaking, the support for BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone) has eclipsed BYOC.  Companies have been allowing users to utilize their own phones as corporate devices for years.  And with the current crop of smartphones, is the underlying concept all that different for the PC?

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