Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pondering BYOD - Is it Really Viable?

I have been involved in enterprise mobility for many years, and have watched enthusiastically as mobility has evolved into a massive technological, societal and cultural force.  I have witnessed mobility changing entire industries and driving growth.  I have studied the impact of mobility on companies and productivity.  I now wonder at what point are mobile solutions so important to a business that companies cannot afford to support a BYOD strategy.

This morning I was reading a new detailed whitepaper on BYOD titled "Making BYOD Work for Your Organization."  The paper is very thorough and identifies what companies should be considering, but I can't help thinking BYOD is complex, difficult to management and expensive to support.  I wonder if BYOD is really as beneficial as many claim.  I wonder if all the added complexity, governance and risk is actually factored into ROIs around BYOD.  I read one report last year that claimed BYOD was much more expensive to support than company liable devices.

What do you think?  Have you tried both and tracked the costs?  If so, I would love to hear from you.

I have also been pondering the changing role of mobile solutions in companies.  Mobile solutions have evolved into mission critical solutions.  Solutions that businesses require to complete day to day tasks.  Are businesses OK with letting these mission critical processes and solutions be run on a device of their employees' choosing?  What if the mobile device breaks and the employee has not budgeted to replace it, so they don't?  Can companies require their employees to replace a BYOD device so they can continue to be productive?  At what point do employees' decisions negatively impact customer service and productivity?

It seems to me that as mobile devices become required tools for productivity, the business must take more steps to ensure the process and solutions work.  There are also considerations around achieving economies of scale in the app development process and support of mobile devices.  There need to be standards of some sort to maximize efficiencies.

Here is a silly scenario I would invite you to consider.  An automobile manufacture decides to allow employees to bring their own tools to the assembly line.  The manufacture argues their employees would be happier to bring their favorite tools from home.  As a result there are thousands of different tools on the factory floor, some of better quality than others.  Some tools work well, others don't.  Soon tools are breaking, getting lost and needing replaced.  Each time a tool has a problem it impacts the production of automobiles.  Sometimes an employee does not have the money to replace their tools when they break.  The assembly line stops.

At some point, perhaps now, mobile solutions are as important to a business as the right tools on an assembly line.  When must a business step in to ensure maximum productivity around mobile devices?

I think BYOD is often promoted by MDM/MAM (mobile device management or mobile application management) vendors as a justification for buying their solutions.  Not a bad approach, but again I wonder if the BYOD trend is actually in the best interest of most businesses.

I think if a company embraces a BYOD strategy, then they should look to simplify mobile apps and standardize on HTML5, so they can easily support the maximum number of mobile devices.  If a company chooses both native app development and a BYOD strategy, they risk being buried in an avalanche of complexity.

Mobility is powerful and supports efficiencies and productivity gains.  Mobile solutions support social and collaborative business processes in real time.  These benefits are massive.  I would encourage companies not to delay receiving these benefits by making the support of mobility more difficult that it needs to be.

I want to hear your opinions on BYOD.  What do you think?  Please comment!!!
Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.