A CIO's view on BYOD: if it doesn't drive revenue, don't do it

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Not all CIOs are jumping on board with the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) approach to deploying tablets, smartphones and other technologies inside their businesses.

Just ask Tony Young, the CIO at Informatica, a Silicon Valley-based cloud and on-premises data integration software vendor. He believes that BYOD often caters more to employees than to their employers and stockholders, which end up paying the costly bills for the strategy.

Essentially, says Young, BYOD can create costly new needs, such as mobile device management (MDM) systems and other products that are necessary to maintain privacy, security, and data protection for a business when workers want to use their own devices.

"With the advent of BYOD, what a lot of vendors are suggesting is that companies buy new infrastructure that support these new devices," he says. "But I think a lot of the vendors aren't solving the problem correctly. The last thing I need to do is start investing my people resources in a whole new product space."

Young, who often participates in roundtables with other CIOs in Silicon Valley, says that in conversations on this subject he tells fellow IT leaders that they should work to make sure that they have the right technology tools for their businesses, which isn't the same thing as adopting the most popular technology trends.

"From my experience in the Silicon Valley, everything runs here at hyper speed," he says. "You have to be very careful in the Valley because you see and hear of all these innovations, so you have to be cognizant of what you do in your company."

Another related problem is that many people only think about mobile devices when it comes to BYOD, he says, when in fact it also can involve employees' choices of specific kinds of PCs or even laptop computers. Like the BYOD craze surrounding mobile devices, Young says his company is also hearing from some employees who bring their own PCs into to work to do their jobs, instead of using the company-issued hardware.

"People are ignoring BYOPC," he says, but that's a bad approach because that issue also needs to be addressed in conversations with workers who want to use something different.

For Young, budgetary concerns are a key factor that drive his decisions regarding BYOD and BYOPC, he says.

"All CIOs are working with a cert amount of budget," he says. "And we know that our people are the most expensive part of our budgets, which takes up 50 to 60 percent." So when you add in the costs of implementing BYOD management systems and the people needed to run them, then you are taking IT money away from the core operations that run a business, he said, which is not a smart decision.

"Difficult IT problems cost you more in people costs," says Young. "Instead, I want to put our people on the highest value things that help drive the company. When it comes to BYOD and BYOPC, you want to be cognizant of shareholder value and costs."

These kinds of issues and the decisions they require are challenging for CIOs, especially when it comes to more tech-savvy workers who want to be using specific kinds of devices in their work, he says. "They want to work here, but they say 'I want a Macbook Pro.' So we have to think about whether we, as CIOs, can attract and retain the best people with the equipment they want, and can we do it in a cost-effective manner that also pleases shareholders."

So why not just say no?

It's not that easy, he says. "For many companies, if you are trying to attract the best minds in the world, when it comes to computers, people have their own choices. Those best minds want to use what they want to use. All these things are perks for employees and they help attract and retain talent. It helps them make choices about where they will work."

Separate networks

At Informatica, Young's answer was to maintain separate networks where employees who use company machines and devices have full access to the secure, fully-featured systems they are used to using, while workers who want to use their own devices use a second secure network, parts of which are cordoned off for security reasons. Employees can use their own devices on the "guest" network, but those devices are not supported by the company and they are only given certain levels of access.

Having and maintaining a second network isn't very expensive and actually costs far less than if the company had installed an MDM system, he says. The two networks are used equally by the company's employees.

"As a CIO, I don't think it is the right thing to do to buy things to manage these multiple pieces of technology," says Young. "I should be investing in bringing in more revenue for the company," rather than in BYOD mechanisms.

It's a "big balancing act," says Young. "CIOs need to be aware of this issue and that it is growing and that it might soon be showing up at their door. I'm at the right investment levels for my enterprise, and it's not so high in BYOD because I want to invest in high value things. You can't just give everybody everything they want."

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