It turns out that most IT departments no longer want to buy, install, and run software on their own servers, and the ancillary benefits of the cloud -- like easier mobile access for workforces that combine full-time employees and contractors -- seal the deal.
BYOD is not about saving a few pennies
The lead on just about every story these days has something to do with BYOD (bring your own device). It's either a story about how many companies allow you to bring your own device, how CIOs are struggling with BYOD, or the fact that within three years most companies will require you to BYOD. Following that lead, it doesn't take long for the talks and articles to spring up and mention why BYOD is such an issue or what pitfalls are posed by BYOD.
But practically everyone is off the mark. BYOD is only an issue because people refuse to realize that it's just about ownership -- nothing more and nothing less.
BYOD is pretty clear: It's bringing your own device. It isn't the company's device or your best friend's device. It's your device, and you own it. Because you own the device, you have certain rights to what is on the device and what you can do with the device. This is the crux of every issue that comes with BYOD programs.
You have to realize that most companies gravitate toward BYOD programs because they believe they can save money. The smartphone was a $200 expense they covered every two years -- and why spend the money if you can get your employee to do it instead? When all you look at is the hardware outlay, that thinking can make a lot of sense. But such an approach tends to ignore many of the economic gains, especially with large companies, that can be had by pooling minutes and data plans to make sure total monthly communications spends go down. You can't do that when everyone brings their own devices with their own plans.
But savings shouldn't be your focus. There's a lot more to BYOD than saving money, which many companies are now starting to realize. If they let their employees use or at least choose their own devices, they find that their employees are more likely to use the devices as tools. They tend to work more hours each week than non-mobile-equipped employees.
You want employees to use mobile technology because they end up working more and often more flexibly. Whether you go BYOD or you provision employees' devices that you buy (called COPE, for "corporate-owned, personally liable"), the real effort is to provide them access to the organization's data ecosystems so that they can be productive with those devices.
There is no difference between the BYOD and COPE models. When you get started with your mobile program, you have to create policy. The goal of your program is to help your users achieve their business goals better. You want a mobile strategy that fits your business strategy, so you start with the notion of enabling your users and you write policy on how they should go about it. You build tools that allow people to use their devices to be flexible and agile. You look at your business processes and find new ways to approach them through mobile that allow people to be more efficient and productive. You create apps that are designed to work with their devices, not crapplications based on legacy thinking.
You create a culture of responsible and eager people who become more productive and efficient because you've worked directly with them and focused on their needs. It's the FUN principle -- focus on user needs -- while you meet the business requirements.
What about all the issues that everyone is talking about with BYOD? These issues are all based on ownership. When you design your processes, you need to realize you can't rely on the legacy thinking of owning the device anymore. You have to build solutions that can live in a world where the user may own the device. You may not have rights to wipe their devices. You may not even be allowed to look at what they do on the devices if it isn't work-related.
The good news is that plenty of tools allow you to isolate all your business data from employees' personal data. Those tools can let you wipe business data from their devices without touching their photos and private emails. There are ways to back up your data and protect it so that you can handle e-discovery investigations and meet the needs of legal, security, and human resources.
You still need to spell out the differences between BYOD and COPE in your policy, but instead of 20 pages devoted to BYOD and a strategy that drives people away from using their own devices, you must enable them to use those devices to meet their work needs. To be fair, the balance between enablement and management varies across the world; in Europe, for example, privacy laws can dictate that if you put data on users' device, they now own that data. There are ways to work around this, but it becomes more complicated.
Adding to a string of announcements aimed at making its service more appealing to businesses, Dropbox this morning said that Dell will start selling the service to its customers.
The battle over which platform delivers the best location and context services to mobile users is already underway with Google in the lead, but Apple's purchase of mapping startups and social analytics firm Topsy, combined with its Bluetooth-based iBeacons could give Apple a strong chance.
Box is experiencing some good times these days with new features, new funding and a high profile CEO, but Box has to be careful as it grows to say true to its root and not fall into the trap becoming just another enterprise software company.