While we might claim we want to live our lives like a beer commercial (with a mighty thirst for undying adventure), in the end it’s more puffery than not because we end up migrating toward what is comfortable and familiar. When it comes to our work tools, we don’t want the challenge of the unknown - we want familiarity. That’s why BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is so popular. We don’t want to jump back and forth between different devices with disparate operating systems, search for buried bookmarks, or explore never-before-seen versions of software. If you're like me, in a hurry most of the time, anything that slows you down even slightly tends to be pushed aside very quickly.
The Dreaded Learning Curve
When you are handed a completely different and new shiny object at the office, you might feel elated at first (especially if the equipment is better than your own), but you also know you’re going to face a frustrating learning curve that will, at a minimum, slow you down while you figure out the nuances. I heard a lot of friends howling and complaining about being forced from the comfort of Microsoft® Windows 7® into the unfamiliar territory of Windows 8®. Think back to the years before you had a preferred mobile operating system. Before you became an iOS devotee, or perhaps an Android™ zealot. Do you remember how frustrating the learning curve was when you acquired a new phone? It doesn’t matter if it is a massive upgrade - it’s a new massive upgrade, and new nearly always means disruptive.
Pros of BYOD
Is BYOD “good” or “bad”? Like most questions, the answer depends on whom you ask.
Employers aren’t stupid (most of them, at any rate). They know that when employees are allowed to access work email on a personal smartphone, they will check email 20+ times per day more and end up working as much as two extra hours each day. The Telegraph notes that nearly 9 out of 10 office workers can access work email on their phones, and two-thirds of them check email as soon as they wake up, and right before they go to bed.
2. One Consistent Device
When you use the same devices at home and at work, you don’t need to learn multiple systems or switch back and forth to access bookmarks, search history, apps and software, etc. This is an enormous advantage with BYOD. It is all about productivity, and a consistent experience that keeps me focused and moving fast.
3. Cool factor
Mitch Landry, a BMC principal product manager based in Gig Harbor, Washington said, "Historically, IT shops only would let you use approved devices. It was all about IT. You would go to the IT guys, and everyone was an idiot but them. And if you put something on your desktop that wasn't approved, they would remove it. That has totally changed. IT is no longer is running the ship, they are a service organization.”
Landry said that a new generation is growing into management positions and demanding to use personal devices (tablets, Macs, smartphones, etc.) once considered unconventional and unsupportable. “They have all these devices and new expectations for service, and the goal for the IT guy today is providing business flexibility and agility. It's not just about IT anymore, it's about increasing the productivity of the business."
Cons of BYOD
1. IT security strains
If you were feeling pretty good about BYOD, not everyone necessarily agrees with you. At the Gartner® Symposium/ITxpo®, Gartner listed BYOD as one of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2014, and estimated that BYOD will double or even triple the size of the mobile workforce - and place a huge strain on IT and finance organizations.
Gartner describes BYOD as “a disruptive phenomenon where employees bring non-company IT into the organization and demand to be connected to everything – without proper accountability or oversight.” Gartner goes on to warn about BYOD causing violations of all kinds of enterprise rules and regulations, and leading to detrimental impacts on network availability and loss of data. However, with the proper governance policies in place, this type of evolution can be handled gracefully. The transformation is inevitable (it’s already well underway), so managing this process is not as dire as the analysts predict. Going mobile with BYOD is not difficult, it’s just complicated, and we do complicated things all day, every day.
2. Indirect costs and threats
According to FireEye, the average enterprise organization is attacked by malware once every three minutes, with each attack costing $3,000 per day or more to recover. Yikes. Opening up the corporate network to rogue BYOD devices increases the likelihood of these costly attacks.
There are security tools and policies that can be enabled on a personal device that allow it to play nicely in a corporate environment and minimize risk, but with BYOD, that risk still will exist. The risk, however, can be controlled, and the associated competitive risk of not mobilizing is far greater.
3. Equipment expenses: Employee costs
Cisco says that 90 percent of employers have some kind of BYOD policy, but the reality is that most of them are not very sophisticated. For example, if your employer doesn’t have some formal process for reimbursement or a way to track the depreciation of personal devices, then the employee bears the brunt of the cost of a BYOD initiative. (Of course, for the employer, this comes out as a Pro.)
Can You COPE With BYOD?
In the wake of the known security perils associated with BYOD, and the obvious desire for employees to personalize their devices, some buzz has arisen around the concept of COPE (corporate-owned, personally-enabled). The idea is to allow the personalization and productivity of BYOD, but with reduced risk.
COPE allows corporate policy makers and IT leaders more control over which devices are supported and what controls are in place on the device, while still accommodating employees who want to personalize their device and content. Just as they could on their own device, employees can send personal emails, access social media, and download photos, but application controls can prevent corporate information from escaping established perimeters. In addition, the IT department controls the device and can remotely wipe the device if the employee loses it or leaves the company.
A Fond Memory of IT vs. Creative
I remember a day years ago when a web designer in our creative group brought his own Mac G4 to the office and managed to elicit a derisive snort from IT. “You don’t honestly think we’re going to support a Mac, do you?” The IT guys didn’t want (or know how) to support a device that wasn’t a PC.
Of course, looking back, I wonder if part of the problem might have been cultural; the IT guys didn’t care for those rogue, black-clad creative folk, slumping in their chairs and listening to bass-thudding techno. They scoffed at the creative types who clicked away their days with design software, sitting at darkened workstations and relishing the perpetual sport of disconnecting the fluorescent ceiling tubes as soon as the confused maintenance guys popped them back into place. Good times.
These days, even in an enterprise environment, it’s probably more unusual for a creative team not to work on a Mac.
Is BYOD Good News or Bad News?
What do you think? What’s been your experience? And where do you think this is headed? Chime in.
Editor's note: CIO magazine covered BMC and our infographic, noting that "BYOD users work longer and earlier."