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Friday, 1 November 2013

BYOD. Is the tail wagging the dog?


The issues raised during discussions about BYOD remind me of a time when I moved to a new organisation.  At that organisation they had a process whereby customer orders were passed through several levels of administration before finally being processed; each level did its bit efficiently and quickly until the order was finally processed.  At each level I asked the people doing the work “what do you do?” and they duly explained how they tick, check and stamp etc.”  When I got everyone together and suggested the purpose of the department was not to move paperwork efficiently but to ensure goods were delivered on time and in full (OTIF) there was some unease.  However we got to work, removed several unnecessary layers of work and re-engineered until we were effective as well as efficient.  My point was that organisations often get mired in tasks rather than focusing on effectively achieving output.

So what has this rambling reminiscence got to do with BYOD?

I believe the discussion is starting from the wrong place.  The discussion should be about the tools employees need to satisfactorily complete the work allocated to them rather than accepting BYOD as a fact and discussing how to manage it.

There are two sides arguing a case, The unpopular side argues that employers must block the practice of using personal devices to get professional work done, no exceptions; the risk of intellectual property walking out the door, untraced, is simply too great. The popular side argues that BYOD is happening anyway; it is cost effective and that it improves productivity for the modern worker. Blocking the use of outside devices will stem productivity and only encourages risk-laden work-rounds.

Let’s look at the argument for BYOD.

It is happening anyway

Why is it happening anyway?  It is happening because organisations are allowing it to happen, why?  Because simply stated, the CEO allows it.  Why would the CEO allow it?  Well the answer is probably because he was told that it is cost effective, necessary and will increase productivity and as an added bonus he can now use his favourite iPhone at work.

It is cost effective

Mark Coates, EMEA VP at Good Technology states “In terms of cost savings, there are huge benefits, since SMBs will not have to manage and fund a second device for employees”.  Well he would say that wouldn’t he.
This has turned out not to be the case, a recent report by NucleusResearch, Inc. shows that the cost to manage a BYOD device is in the region of $75 dollars rather than a COPE (corporate owned personally enabled) device costing about $40.  The reason for the difference is straightforward; corporations can negotiate better contracts with suppliers compared to private individuals.  This figure is on the low side as it does not include costs to deploy MDM software and employ the staff to manage it or the extra time to manage the expenses as the bills are submitted and reviewed.

It increases productivity for the modern worker

Mark Coates (again), EMEA VP at Good Technology states that: "By enabling employees to securely and easily access corporate data on their own device, productivity levels will naturally increase."
This has turned out to be extraordinarily difficult to quantify.  The figures reported for any given productivity increase are supplied by vested interest groups such as MDM suppliers who sell software, carriers who enjoy greater profit from BYOD and employees who get to bring their favourite device to work and get the boss to pay for it.
However we can assume that a BYOD or COPE will encourage workers to give up their free time and respond to emails and phone calls outside their normal work hours.  If staff are expected to work after hours without an explicit contract and remuneration to reflect that condition well then the employer is plainly behaving in an unethical manner.    

Blocking the use of outside devices will stem productivity…
When talking about BYOD Richard Absalom, analyst at Ovum, said: "Trying to stand in the path of consumerised mobility is likely to be a damaging and futile exercise.”
This is probably the worst argument I have ever heard supporting BYOD and probably comes from the fact that people pushing the BYOD agenda are not people who are tasked with managing operations but are in fact techs and analysts or sales people trying to make a buck from the anomaly that is BYOD.  The fact is that the officers or board of a corporation are entitled to run a business as they feel fit as long as they maximise the value of the business and adhere to relevant legislation.   Therefore if the board have a legal policy in place to stop staff accessing corporate data on a personally owned device then staff will not access corporate data on a personal device.  If they do then are in breach of their conditions of employment and are subject to disciplinary procedures up to and including dismissal.


Concluding with
BYOD has been driven by non substantiated claims of productivity increases.
Who benefits with BYOD? Well obviously the Carrier gets to make more profit, the software vendors sell MDM solutions, and the employee gets his phone bill paid and also gets to set the technological standard in the company he/she works for.


Who Loses with BYOD?  The Business operating BYOD loses money from increased cost, lost employee time as the expenses are tallied and processed and most importantly the risk of data loss is increased, potentially causing the organisation to breech data protection legislation. 

BYOD is an accident that is happening now.






BYOD Ice cream van (I wanna be cool)


BYOD Police Car (well who wouldn't)


BYOD Desk (it makes me feel good)


BYOD Chair (I am more productive)


BYOD Gun (feel comfortable using my own kit)