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The Ugly Truth About BYOD

While I am certainly not one who is shy to share an opinion with anyone (and I mean ANYONE), there is one thing that I typically don’t like doing neither in my professional life, nor in my personal life.  It’s the “ha ha! told you so!” moment where all the supposed experts who have been trying to convince people of something are proven wrong.  Normally, I like to just offer a crisp smile and maybe a wink…because I usually don’t need to say anything more.

Today, I am going to diverge slightly from that approach, without hopefully sounding like that Simpsons character, Nelson Muntz.

As we all know, one of the most common reasons cited for going down the path of BYOD is for the cost savings – particularly the reduction in CapEx because organizations are no longer paying for the hardware.  Unfortunately, the devil gets in the details in terms of how organizations proceed from that point.  One of the most publicized experiences in BYOD has been the IBM real-time case study.  In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, one person opined that Big Blue Gets It!

And then, there were a bunch of articles that came out yesterday with titles such as “IBM Faces the Perils of ‘Bring Your Own Device’” and “IBM stung by BYOD pitfalls.” One of the most pertinent points in the first article was:

The trend toward employee-owned devices isn’t saving IBM any money, says Jeanette Horan, who is IBM’s chief information officer and oversees all the company’s internal use of IT. Instead, she says, it has created new challenges for her department of 5,000 people, because employees’ devices are full of software that IBM doesn’t control.

So again, I am not going to do a master impersonation of Nelson Muntz, but I will say that there is yet another real world proof point that the biggest promise of BYOD is a fallacy (unless of course you reimburse nothing) and that there are other things that BYOD doesn’t want you to know about (like the fact that you still have to manage the devices and educate your employees regarding an acceptable use policy).

BYOD is expensive, can create huge complexities for both the IT and legal departments and in my opinion will only continue to lose its shine.  Fortunately, we’re not confused here in our community and we recognize that there are legitimate alternatives to BYOD that provide the best of both worlds to both the employee (choice of device) and employer (cost and control advtanges).


  1. Posted May 23, 2012 at 15:49 | Permalink

    I agree and this is one of the big challenges that IT vendors face. They are all branding around BYOD right now while ignoring the compliance and security issues that don’t directly line up to their own device, application, or network-specific perspective.

    It’s like saying “we have a solution for herding cats!”

    “Great! Do you get the cats from A to B?”
    “Do you group the cats together?”
    “Do you clean up after the cats?”
    “Then what do you do?”

    “We inventory the cats and make sure they all get fed.”

    Neither the approach nor the vendor positioning make any sense. The vendors just point out their own weaknesses and support the least organized method of managing mobility.

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  2. Posted May 24, 2012 at 15:36 | Permalink

    BYOD can be a wonderful thing! And so can frolicking through a rose garden. It’s not that you shouldn’t do it at all, but you should be aware that along with the pretty flowers are some potentially painful thorns, and maybe even some mud that could end up on you if you don’t watch where you step. The point is that if you are inclined to proceed with these otherwise enjoyable activities, you should be prepared for the hazards and equip yourself with appropriate protections and tools to reap the benefits without getting scraped up. In the rose garden, I would recommend long pants and sleeves to go with some good shoes. For BYOD, you should look at Mobile Application Management products. I am with Symantec, so I have a pretty good view of the technology options available to solve this problem, even in highly regulated industries. I believe that many companies will actually find CapEx savings with BYOD. OpEx costs may be a bit more prickly, but look to unified systems and broad integration to help there. A little education and some appropriate controls will allow people to continue being as productive at work as they are at home, without harming the company.

    Brian Duckering

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  3. Posted May 26, 2012 at 11:08 | Permalink

    What is not mentioned in the COPE strategy is the administrative overhead. Items such as inventory, technical support for a very dynanmic changing hardware (keeping up with all the bells and whistles), and if your organization is global you are looking a 24×7 support model. BYOD has all of the above put on the employee.

    On the other side, one complexity not mentioned with BYOD is the complexity of reimbursement (tax laws differ from state to state).

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  4. Posted May 30, 2012 at 06:02 | Permalink

    Corporate Liable, BYOD and COPE do not stop the distraction of the employee at the door of IT, waving their device asking for help because the device they got for “X”day does not sync their calendar, email is frustrating, and the company apps don’t look the same.
    The difference in a CL or COPE world is that the devices are likely limited and the staff can answer the questions. I don’t need to go on about the combination potential between device, OS and carrier, it is complex.
    In my world the main concern is leverage. Leverage for the enterprise to negotiate the best deals is complex. This is an opex issue as the big 3, ATT, VZ and S all have an interest in your wireline and wireless. Enterprises that have deployments in both that work together for follow me, conferencing and more save millions annually by strategically leveraging their wireline and wireless spend and technology.
    Glenn mentioned tax implications. What is the cost to have that issue resolved? Or the time and cost to submit, approve, report, record and pay a reimbursement for hundreds or thousands of employees.
    Other implications: An employee has a credit issue and can’t get financial approval for a wireless subscription. The company finds out the employee has a credit issue or maybe it was a mistake but their reputation is still affected. The list goes on…

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  5. Posted June 13, 2012 at 01:10 | Permalink

    While CAPEX being one of the factor that attracts organizations to embrace BYOD, from a value chain stake holders’ angle, there are various other dimensions to it. In my view it is more of prematureness, lack of strategizing and lack of preparedness to embrace a system for which predecessors have not defined proven and traditional management practices. Applying traditional IT system management practices and policies that doesn’t take into account the core essence (ubiquity) of mobility and the ignorance of user context within the IT policy context are accelerating the failure rates of BYOD! And of course, the industry is yet to figure out a complete MDM/ DLP/ Multi-skin device framework solutions that consolidate and unwind all the enterprise aspects of MDM/ DLP!

    Be it BYOD device or corporate device provided to employee by spending a huge CAPEX, the ROI measurement has to be done from a 360 degree perspective and not from the commercial angle alone!

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