I read an article today on BYOD (Bring your own device) and how the whole concept could be in trouble. It’s nothing new to see BYOD being seen as the next big thing or for it to be fading away depending on whom you’re talking to. In this case the post was pointing out a case in California where the courts had ruled that if a person has to use a cellphone for work, even if they paid for the phone, the company was responsible for part of the bill. This, according to the article, would signal the end of BYOD as companies didn’t want the hassle of being forced to pay for part of people’s phone bills. It took no more than 5 minutes to find another article talking about how BYOD was getting even bigger as companies were reaping big gains by allowing millennials to use their own devices, even though they were experiencing growing pains.
The inherent problem with all of these articles on BYOD (it also applies to IoT, Cloud, throw a technology in here) is that the conclusions aren’t based on facts. They are assuming causality due to correlation and yet they don’t link the premise to the result. This is just a bad approach and no amount of writing and analysis can connect the dots together where they don’t belong.
It’s not very difficult for companies that have the right circumstances to succeed in implementing a BYOD program. Wait, you’re saying, “I see what you did there Brian, you’ve already put conditions on the results.” Well, yes I am. Like any program, whether it be BYOD, or moving to the cloud etc, you have to understand the conditions and restraints before acting. It’s hard for an international company to implement a BYOD program. There are privacy and ownership rules that exist in Europe that makes it difficult. In some places devices that meet the requirements may not be available to the locals there. You have to understand these restraints and others like regulatory or legal issues that come along with any mobile program.
The key to implementing a successful BYOD program is all planning. You can’t just tell your workers to go out and buy whatever device they want and expect them to be able to hook up to your network and be productive. You start by creating a mobile program. BYOD, as I have pointed out before, is an ownership issue, nothing more. It is part of your mobile program; it is not the mobile program. When you start a mobile program, you build policies in that program. Those policies are the cornerstone to implementing a successful mobile initiative. You tell your employees what you want them to do with the device as well as what they shouldn’t be doing. You lay out whether they will buy the device or whether it will be a corporate owned device. You explain to them how the billing for the mobile plan will work. You may completely reimburse the entire bill or you may only pay part of it but your employees understand from the get go what is expected. You also give them guidelines so that they understand what devices are safe to use and will give them the best access versus those that might only get email, calendaring and contacts.
You run these plans by your legal and HR teams. In the case of BYOD and reimbursement, you will find out quickly what the legal ramifications may be. In California, you are definitely going to have to pay some of the bills if they have to use their own device for work. You may also find that a full plan reimbursement has consequences for the user. They may owe taxes as you are also paying for their personal calls and data use. Companies have started charging back a small fee for voice and data use (~$20) to the user and then the employee no longer has the tax liabilities.
As you have laid out how to best choose a great device for BYOD, you have shorn up your internal WiFi to handle the more devices that will be in the office. You have also built secure apps that enable your employees and provided an app store for them to download the apps from. You may have set up a virtual desktop infrastructure or app streaming capability so some data never resides on the device or so users can access legacy applications that haven’t been converted to mobile apps yet.
Deploying any mobile program requires planning. A single court ruling or advice from an analyst isn’t enough to derail a well-planned deployment. Mobile isn’t giving out devices and expecting your employees to start being more agile and flexible. Mobile is planning to enable your workers through a well-planned strategy that meets their needs when and where they are required. It’s devising a strategy that is robust and well thought out, where the users are part of putting the strategy together. It addresses the ownership of the device, the apps and the data, and in the end helps people get their work done. When knowledge is easy to access at the right time and place, people become more flexible and agile, more efficient and productive, and just happier. That’s when BYOD, Mobile, Cloud, IoT succeed. They become part of a well-planned seamless experience.