When done right, BYOD can trim costs, reduce tech support, enhance collaboration and connectedness, and create real-time customer interactions.
By Samuel Greengard
Only a few years ago, overseeing a workforce armed with mobile technology was a fairly straightforward proposition. The enterprise purchased a separate phone for business use, it controlled what applications and content went on the phone, and decided when the employee would upgrade to a new device. The biggest question on the minds of CIOs was whether to equip employees with a basic cell phone or a BlackBerry.
That was then and this is now. Thanks to an influx of smartphones and tablets—iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows phones and more—the balance of power has shifted to employees. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is no longer an option for most organizations; it's the standard for business in the digital era. What's more, along with the decision about which devices and operating systems to support, there are thorny questions about how to navigate the technology and which services and features to provide.
"Businesses require a clear BYOD strategy. It's important to have an understanding of what's supported and what isn't supported across the enterprise," states Jim Guinn, a managing director at PwC. In fact, without well-defined policies and controls—plus a heavy focus on security—BYOD can become an unmanageable mess. Breaches, breakdowns and the loss of intellectual property can lead to economic losses, as well as other problems. But for enterprises that get things right, BYOD and the consumerization of IT create new and rich opportunities to run a business more efficiently… and profitably.
It's no secret that many younger workers are glued to their mobile devices—and many won't work at a company that limits access to them. They've grown up with mobile phones in their pocket and, in many instances, they view these devices as the primary way to connect and interact with others. Combine this with an emerging post-PC world—a PwC report predicts that personal devices will comprise 35 percent of all enterprise technology by mid-2013—and it's clear that a mobile-centric workplace is here to stay. "It's becoming almost impossible to avoid BYOD," Guinn says.
Accenture chief technology strategist and managing director Gary Curtis says that CIOs shouldn't view BYOD as a problem but rather as an opportunity. The ability to extend the enterprise through communication, collaboration, social media and real-time data is nothing less than transformative. The ability to deploy leading-edge technologies and sophisticated apps and services can be revolutionary. Because about 90 percent of firms have already adopted BYOD in one form or another, "the task is to make it work for everyone in the best way possible," Curtis says.
One company that has embraced the challenge is Intel. The semiconductor giant has more than 39,000 devices registered on its network and about 70 percent of them are personal devices, notes Dave Buchholz, director of consumerization. The company took notice of BYOD and a growing consumerization trend in 2009. At the time, the company's CIO, Diane Bryant, indicated that she didn't want to wind up beholden to a single vendor or device. "So, we began to investigate how we could transform our infrastructure and adopt a global services model," says Buchholz.