You have to go "all in" on BYOD for it to really pay off

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While many enterprises already have embraced BYOD, others either are reluctantly accommodating employees who want to user their own mobile devices for work or simply avoiding the issue altogether.

Part of that reticence concerns genuine questions about how much BYOD costs or saves an organization. One CIO might point to lower hardware expenditures because employees purchase their own devices, while another will bemoan the extra costs associated with creating and running a mobile management infrastructure as well as processing individual employee wireless service invoices.

A new white paper by Cisco Systems' consulting arm, the Internet Business Solutions Group, offers some interesting data on the financial impact of BYOD. The bottom line, IBSG concludes in The Financial Impact of BYOD, is that "on average, BYOD is saving companies money and helping their employees become more productive."

That's good news, but the bad news is that even BYOD-friendly enterprises are leaving money on the table. 

"The value companies currently derive from BYOD is dwarfed by the gains that would be possible if they were to implement BYOD more strategically," the IBSG paper concludes.

The study surveyed more than 2,400 mobile users across 18 industries in six countries -- the U.S., the U.K., Germany, India, China and Brazil -- and incorporated another IBSG survey of 135 IT decision makers.

Recognizing the varying levels of BYOD implementation, IBSG's financial model calculated the costs and benefits of BYOD under two scenarios:

  • "Basic BYOD" -- the way BYOD is typically implemented in companies today, with an incomplete patchwork of capabilities and policies.
  • "Comprehensive BYOD" -- a more strategic approach to BYOD, featuring capabilities companies need to harness BYOD effectively.

Those enterprises in the first category "have been reactive in developing their BYOD capabilities and policies, yielding to demands for a wider variety of devices and applications rather than executing a vision for greater flexibility and cost savings," according to IBSG.

This produces a mixed bag of results, with some "more successful than others in garnering value from this patchwork of capabilities."

When companies go all in on BYOD, however, they're more likely to develop "a more strategic approach to the way they provision devices, provide IT support, and develop mobile policies."

"With Comprehensive BYOD," the study concludes, "companies that are already successful in reducing costs and increasing employee productivity will see their gains increase substantially. Those that have struggled to generate significant value can use Comprehensive BYOD to approach, and even surpass, the gains made by firms in the most successful countries to date."

What this underscores is that BYOD is a tool. Placed in the proper hands, BYOD can increase productivity and reduce costs. But a ham-fisted approach to BYOD is likely to squander potential financial benefits. So, really, a BYOD program is only as good as the people implementing it. That's worth remembering next time a CIO complains that BYOD isn't working for his or her enterprise.

Here are some of the study's major findings:

  • Average BYOD users across countries save 37 minutes per week by using their own devices (with a high of 81 minutes per week in the U.S. and a low of 4 minutes per week in Germany).
  • On average, basic BYOD generates $350 of value annually per mobile user (including both BYOD and corporate device users).
  • With comprehensive BYOD, enterprises can gain an additional $1,300 annually per mobile user.

If your enterprise has hundreds or thousands of mobile users, that's a lot of extra value.

The study details not only the additional value derived from comprehensive BYOD, it lays out several areas of savings:

  • Hardware costs -- Employees purchase devices previously bought by the company.
  • Support costs -- Companies can actually reduce support costs with BYOD by implementing community support, wikis, forums, and other streamlined support options.
  • Telecom costs -- By migrating some mobile users from corporate data plans to self-funded plans, companies can cut telecom costs. Companies have reported being able to migrate about 20% of corporate users to self-funded plans in this way.

That last one is interesting because one cost argument against BYOD is that enterprises lose the volume discount from carriers once employees start using their own devices and plans. But it seems a well-conceived and comprehensive BYOD program can offset those extra costs.

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