Will BYOD become a norm ?

Highway Signpost "BYOD - Bring Your Own Device"According to a recent Gartner study, BYOD will become widespread in the next years and in 2017 what’s optional today may become a norm.

It’s about allowing employees to use their own personal devices (mobile, tablet, laptop) at work instead of company’s owned devices.

According to Gartner, in 2017 half businesses will require employees to supply their own devices.

BYOD, a nightmare for IT

That’s quite  a revolution for IT departments that face this new step of IT consumerization. As a matter of fact and despite of what many say, BYOD raises lots of concerns. First in terms of compatibility of business applications. Some of them are quite old, are very specific and did not evolve in the last years so they can’t be used on recent OSs and browsers. Maybe it’s only about a small number of applications but it’s often about critical ones. As for the rest, as applications are moving to the web, machines and Os will matter less and less.

Then in terms of support. While many businesses still imposed locked, normalized and standardized environments to ensure stability and cost-efficient support, an heterogeneous fleet causes new concerns. We hear than employees opting for BYOD cost less in terms of support, know their tools better and care more about them. Moreover they’re more likely to help one another trough users communities. What is certainly true. But what to do when a major dysfunction is caused by an employee’s mistake ? He’s left alone until he manages to fix things on his own ?

Then come security matters. Should businesses have control over all or part of the user’s devices ? The answers is obviously yes, as we can see for mobile fleets, and the ability to have two separate and impenetrable zones on a device will be key in the future. But what’s about PCs ? It will suppose more accountability from employees regarding to the way they manage and maintain their machine.

Then comes money issues. It’s a matter of culture, of mindset but if some are so happy to be able to use their own machine that they don’t care about having their employer subsidizing it, if some businesses are ready to subsidy, there’s still a large part of the workforce that don’t want to spend a penny for a work related tool and don’t even want to have their personal and business life hosted on the same device. And what to when the machine is damaged outside before the scheduled renewal ? In an enterprise fleet the machine is replaced but will the procedure will be as simple and cost-effective ? Will employees try to cheat ?

What leads to HR issues.

BYOD : an HR lever that raises cultural questions

It’s obvious that a BYOD policy is very attractive in terms of employer brand and that employees used to BYOD will never want to switch back to the old model. The fact their work on devices they chose, customized and that are often more recent that what their employees can propose seems to have positive impacts on productivity. And for new generations – but not only – the ability to bring all the sides of their lives in an unique device instead of having two phones, two tablets, two PCs, each one dedicated to a part of their life is very consistent with the way they see work and a more comfortable situations that avoids unnecessary complications.

But this should not make us overlook the other side of the coin : if expectations are increasing, some employees are still reluctant and won’t change. They want to keep work and life separated and will find improper to have to finance their work tool (even if, as someone recently told me, they buy their suits themselves…) or are incapable of maintaining their machine.

So, will BYOD become a norm ? That’s surely an idea that will keep ramping up. Anyway, businesses have more interest in organizing it rather that taking the risk of “under the radar” BYOD than can be seen nearly everywhere (even if businesses are in denial) and will raise much more problems. On the other hand, because of the reasons listed above, it won’t become a mandatory norm and it will only concerns a part of the workforce.

So businesses have many reasons to start working on BYOD policies right now because behind an apparently simple concept they’ll find more complex issues to deal with. At an IT level (support, fleet management), human and financial to balance constraints and expectations and build a framework that will work for anyone without frustration feelings. What is far from being the simplest point to tackle.

No BYOD without tradeoffs

If BYOD can be good for both businesses and employees, it also requires tradeoffs from both sides and that will be the tough part of such programs. As a matter of facts, wrong tradeoffs can easily turn a win-win situation into a lose-lose one.

I would not be surprised to see 50% of employees opting for BYOD in the next years. I would not be surprised either to see half of businesses having BYOD policies. But having 50% of businesses requiring employees to supply their devices looks to ambitious, if not unrealistic and even counterproductive.

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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