BYOD: The 'why' before the 'what'

Things to consider before making the leap to 'bring your own device'

Although there are reams of comments in IT media on the impact of BYOD (bring your own device) and even more opinions on what should be done, consider this before you adopt: Stop it, help it, control it, manage it and ignore it. Few writers seem to consider approaching the subject from a customer’s point of view.

While most perspectives on BYOD are clear, an in-depth look came up with some interesting assessments.

  • BYOD is just a continuation of the consumerisation of IT: We saw it with the adoption of SaaS and this is just a sequel. Users saw they could push new technology on the business without the co-operation or consent of IT.
  • It’s cool: Let’s face it, many of these devices started out as a new toy and now we want to use that toy at work.
  • It’s about ease of use: Knowledge workers are busy folks and have a million things going on, and anything that helps to make life easier is welcome. My tablet made my personal life easier, so why don’t I see if it can make my corporate life easier?

To my mind the real answer is there’s a little truth in each of these reasons. Let’s take a look at the last issue first because 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 seldom ever unplugged from the office.

So after being pushed to stay connected, it’s not surprising that when I find an easy way to solve a data management 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 per cent of respondents said it increased productivity, while about 50 per cent said it increased their ability to work from home.

If you believe my premise that the users have found a better way, then the question becomes what do IT organisations need to do to enable their users while still abiding by all the rules and regulations required to enforce compliance and security?

To date, IT organisations that have allowed personal devices on the network have increased network traffic (according to 40 per cent of those surveyed), as well as more helpdesk requests (44 per cent). So let’s peel the onion to show what might make life a little easier.

First, users don’t need everything (although they might want it). What they do need is access to their primary sets of data. What does this mean? Well, not too many folks want to open massive spreadsheets, build PowerPoint decks from scratch, or perform compute-intensive tasks on their tablet. There are a few who do, and their requirements may vary, but I’m going to propose that a good 80 per cent of users are knowledge workers who don’t want to do heavy duty computing.

What they do want is access to email and key corporate apps (many of which are already accessible through a browser with a VPN), and maybe a few special data sets such as operational reports.

So if we scale the requirements back to these essentials, can we build a better mouse trap? I think so. Few of these options are new, but here’s some advice for people thinking about BYOD: Before you consider the answer, see if you can put a finger on the problem!

Sanjay Castelino is vice president of Product Management and Marketing at SolarWinds.

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