The Wireless Miser's Blog

BYOD: Bring Your Own Disaster?

BYOD is all the rage with mobility pundits.

And from a theoretical standpoint, that’s understandable. After all, just about every employee in today’s workplace has his or her own smartphone. So why should we buy them all a second device to keep them productive in the workplace?

Well, maybe we shouldn’t. But those of us working on the front lines of corporate mobility have seen a lot go wrong with BYOD. There’s the salesperson who got rocked by an extra couple of hundred bucks on his monthly wireless bill. There’s the HR manager who got a call from a union rep about the overtime implications for employees checking their email after hours from home. And there’s the help desk teams that saw their workload shoot through the roof.

The question therefore isn’t whether BYOD as an abstract concept makes sense or not. It’s how we can make BYOD programs work for our organizations and our employees from a technical, economic, operational and risk management perspective.

We also need to face the truth: BYOD may not make sense for every organization or every employee. Yes, the alternatives to BYOD result in people having to carry around multiple devices. But is that really the worst thing in the world?

A recent survey by TechGuide revealed that the average gadget user carries 2.6 devices. These can include some combination of a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, an MP3 player, and/or an e-reader. So it’s a bit naïve to assume that the challenges of BYOD automatically and in every instance are less problematic than simply asking someone to carry a separate device for their work—especially if that work-specific device offers substantial benefits by seriously empowering them with the right mix of mobile applications and services.

Mobility decision-makers therefore need to focus much more on understanding their real business needs—and their real limitations in terms of opex budgets and support capacity—so they can make smarter, more sober-minded decisions about how exactly to maximize their mobility ROI.

Yes, it’s great to leverage employees’ personal mobile devices to whatever extent we can practically to do so, but that’s not our mission. Our mission is to make our organizations productive, secure and profitable. BYOD only makes sense insofar as it furthers those goals. Outside of that, it’s a buzzword that makes money for technology vendors and industry pundits.