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BYOD, Its OK to be an enabler

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If you read lasts weeks “A CIOs Top Five Mobility Questions” post you’ll recall that Bring Your Own Device was the number one hot button issue among senior level IT people. BYOD takes many forms; whether it’s a pure employee ownership model, a stipend, or an employee device ownership/enterprise services ownership. All of these have a common theme, and that is the enterprise doesn’t own the device! I realize that seems obvious, but this transference of ownership endears massive impacts in management, security and application enablement on the devices.

If you don’t own the device, you can’t secure it

The old style of full device management with the ability to turn features on and off (SMS, Camera, etc.), enabling full device wipe, and device disablement doesn’t work when the device isn’t owned by the enterprise. In many cases the devices themselves don’t lend themselves to that mode of management, IOS and Android devices (the two fastest growing operation systems) in particular. In other cases, because the employee owns the device, wiping, or locking the device or the non-enterprise owned data on it, in the best cases leads to unhappy employees and in the worse can actually be illegal. Lastly, because BYOD widens the audience of devices and applications, IT or the enterprise may not want the liability of managing the devices, if that employee commits unapproved transactions or traffic on it.

Device choice

Obviously, the driving force behind this trend is device choice; tablets, smartphones, laptops, ultrabooks all come is dizzying array of sizes, input capabilities, and operation systems. This choice, what is so appealing to end users, is exactly what is so difficult to manage for us IT people. Each device has its own security, management, application language, and network connections.

“I can save money with BYOD!”

Actually, no you won’t… In 1000s of conversations with IT leaders the idea of BYOD costing the enterprise less comes up over and over. In nearly every single one of those cases, the IT person slowly comes to the realization that we are really just shifting costs, not eliminating them:

  • Services costs: In a typical enterprise cellular/wireless contract of $1 million, the enterprise will see about a 20% discount off of list, this coupled with per line credits of $5-15 per user, nets the enterprise an effective discount of 25-30%. Once the employees are no longer buying from the centralized contract the enterprise is now paying full list price for services. This can be mitigated somewhat but stipends, but you’re still paying more for less.
  • Device costs: Obviously if the employee purchases the device, then you’ve eliminated that cost, right? Not so fast, because now you have to add back in the costs of the management solutions, whether its MDM, enterprise application stores, or a combination of functions, the costs for those capabilities run between 5-10dollars per month per employee. Totaling 120-240 per 24 month period per employee.. Right about equal to the purchase price of a new device.

So if it doesn’t cost less, why do it?

The short answer is, you don’t really have a choice. But that’s the wrong way to look at this issue; this is a key tipping point for IT, one where we can show our true value to the business. We can (with the right tools and processes) enable each and every employee to be empowered; with the tools they are comfortable and most productive on. I understand that transitioning from enterprise owned to employee owned devices may take some time, or may not be practical in certain environments. In this case you’ll want to spell out specific services that are available to employees who provide their own devices, and continue to revise that list as the devices and services are made available.

Key technologies to make this work

  • Mobile Device Management (MDM), this is again not the traditional method, but the newer ways that vendors that offer effective “data” management. Either though earmarking or sandboxing the data that the enterprise is concerned with, than only that data is encrypted, managed, and wiped… leaving the device owners data untouched.
  • Enterprise App store, this increasingly popular method of application distribution enables enterprises to securely distribute both enterprise built and off the shelf applications to employees, regardless of device.
  • Open Platform for Application Development, as the audience of devices continues to grow, enterprises will not be able to act/react fast enough to shifts in OS and device functionality. The major operation systems update 3-4 times per year, with new operation systems gaining relevancy every couple years. The speed in which new cloud services can materialize is unprecedented, leaving an enterprise either trying to control” their users.. Or building apps on an open platform so they aren’t making those choices about which is the “best OS” or cloud services.

Questions? What other BYOD issues to you see? What are you doing with those enabling technologies?

On a mostly unrelated note, please join me on February 2nd at 10am PST for my first Appcelerator webinar: Where are you in your mobile maturity … and where do you want to be? You’ll hear about Appcelerator’s Mobile Maturity Model, a great way for enterprises to chart where they are in their mobile lifecycle, and how that position dictates mobile application development, sourcing and software choices. Register now.

by Michael King

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