So I’ve been reading a lot of commentary on the impact of BYOD and even more opinions on what should be done, stop it, help it, control it, manage it, ignore it. In fact, we recently worked with Network World on a survey around this topic. While I understand the perspectives on what to do, in all that I’ve read I have yet to see someone approach this from the customers’ point of view. I have been thinking about what the reason is for this movement and I’ve bounced around a few places.
- It’s just a continuation of the consumerization of IT – we saw it with the adoption of SaaS and this is just a sequel. Users saw that they could push new technology on the business without the cooperation or consent of IT.
- It’s cool – let’s face it, many of these devices started out as a new toy and now we just want to use the new toy at work.
- It’s about easy, like the Staples Easy button, knowledge workers are busy folks and have a million things going on and any way to help make life easier is welcome. It turns out my tablet made my personal life easier so why don’t I see if it can make my corporate life easier.
I think the real answer is that there’s a little truth to each of these reasons. I’m going to start with the last one first because I think it’s the most relevant. Work has blended into our personal lives in ways that didn’t exist 30 years ago. The generations in the workplace today walk around never unplugged from the office. So after pushing us to stay connected it’s not surprising that when I find an easy way to solve a data management (it’s all data) problem in my personal life I want to bring it to work. And saying no is not an option for IT, mostly because the biggest demand for a solution is coming from the executives. A recent survey we conducted at SolarWinds illustrates this. When asked about the results of allowing personal mobile devices on the network 51% of respondents said it increased productivity and about 50% said it increased the ability to work from home.
If you believe my premise that the users have found a better way, then the question becomes what do we as an IT organization need to do to enable the users while still hitting on all the rules and requirements that we’re required to enforce (compliance, security etc). So far, for IT organizations that have allowed personal devices on the network has meant more traffic (40% said this in our survey) and more helpdesk requests (44%). So let’s peel the onion back a bit on what might make life a bit easier.
The first thing to realize is that users don’t need everything (they might want it though). What users need is access to their primary sets of data – what do I mean by this? Well not too many folks want to open massive spreadsheets, build ppt decks from scratch, or do compute intensive tasks on their tablet – there are a few, and your requirements may vary, but I’m going to propose that there’s a good 80% of users who are knowledge workers that don’t want to do the things I mentioned above. What they do want is access to email, key corporate apps (many of which are already accessible through a browser with a VPN), and maybe a few special data sets (operational reports). So if we scale the requirements back to this then can you build a better mouse trap? I think so.
I won’t go through all the options in this post because most of them aren’t new, but if you’re thinking about BYOD before you think about the answer, see if you can put a finger on the problem.As a side note, here are a couple of good pieces I read on BYOD that talk about some of the challenges and the ‘what’.
Bring your own device debate – ZDNet