Bring Your Own Device

Posted on December 4, 2011


Bring You Own Device

It is known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Technology), BYOT (Bring Your Own Devices) or the Consumerization of IT.  Whatever you call it, it is a new paradigm that is making its way across enterprise networks throughout the county as employees are bringing their own computer devices to work.  It seems like only yesterday that IT departments had tight control over the enterprise fleet.  Most users were tied down to desktops, select users were allotted laptops and both were locked down tightly with group policies that prevented users from personalizing the computer for their own preferences.  The Blackberry was the smartphone of choice for organizations and the IT department could control it as well through the Blackberry Enterprise Server.  It was a simple world that the organization had dominion over.  How much things have changed in only a few years.  The top-down approach in which IT management decided what devices the user would be allowed to use, has succumbed to a bottom0up one in which users are telling the organization what they will use.  Cisco put it best on a recent blog of their Canadian division, “Embrace the Post-PC Era!”

If we examine how we arrived at this junction, it becomes easy to understand.  Organizations have allowed users to use their own mouse or keyboard for ergonomic issues for many years.  Years ago some users took the liberty of replacing their assigned CRT monitors with their own flat screens.  Then users were allowed the ability to remote into their desktop from home during off hours or while on the road from their personal laptop.  Then came the cloud, a whole new paradigm in which users can access just about anything they need through any web browser.  Suddenly the desktop didn’t mean near as much as it used to.  With the cloud, came the tablet and a variety of app driven devices, which suddenly gave people a variety of technologies to select from.  As Mark Minasi said in the keynote address at a recent conference in Atlanta, “More cloud seems to be less Microsoft.”  The cloud at least for now, seems to favor no one device over another and if this is so, how can the IT leadership of an organization foist their own favored technology upon their users.

In a recent white paper distributed by Unisys, the Consumerization of IT was identified in 2011 as one of six disruptive trends which they define by a trend with the high potential of disrupting business as usual.  Says Unisys, “the new challenge for IT and for enterprise application owners will not be around technology and standards, setting limits and narrowing choice, but around helping manage this new hybrid infrastructure and in providing guidance to the business on the optimal deployment models for application productivity.”

Although BYOD/BYOT is the hot topic right now, organizations that embrace this growing paradigm are still in the minority.  In an article from CIO Magazine dated September 26, 2011, “Some CIOs, however, say BYOT is a nonstarter: an empty idea that saves no money but brings potentially expensive security and control problems to corporate IT. Companies that offer full-fledged BYOT programs are still in the minority. In an exclusive survey of 476 IT leaders, we found that 69 percent don’t allow employees to buy their own equipment for work while just 24 percent do.”  Of the companies that do embrace some sort of BYOT program, 38% allow their employees to choose any device they want.”

Besides the issue of how organizations will retain their desired level of control over their users, BYOD presents a number of legal considerations that are currently unanswered.  In a panel discussion on BYOD, hosted by Cisco Systems, a number of legal issues were addressed such as the ownership of data.  These devices are essentially storage devices containing a culmination of both business and personal data.  To what degree are employers responsible for the personal data contained on these devices during work hours and non-work-hours is a question that will have to be figured out as we go along.

BYOD/BYOT is another aspect of IT that organizations are trying to figure out in addition to the other trends such as virtualization and the Cloud.  Like everything IT related, BYOD/BYOT has both advantages and disadvantages and hidden costs that we will only discover years from now.  The fact is though, this paradigm is the Pandora’s box for IT managers today, and though they may not like it, the cat is out of the bag and it will be difficult to induce users to return to the tightly controlled environments of yesteryear.