Ask the IT Consultant

Aug 27 2012   1:30AM GMT

Extreme Enterprise BYOD

Beth Cohen Beth Cohen Profile: Beth Cohen

Question:  What would happen if you took an employee owned devices policy to its logical extreme?  What would happen if companies stopped providing systems and devices to their workers and required them to use their own tools?

Making employees buy their own IT tools sounds like a crazy idea.  Thirty years ago, IT systems were so expensive that most access was through a dumb terminal, which was essentially nothing more than a session screen that allowed you to type in commands that were sent to the computer.   The computer was of course housed in some data center attended by tens of administrators day and night.  Then the PC – remember it is not called the Personal Computer for nothing — revolution of the 1990’s shifted the paradigm again, so that each user had their own software on their own system.  The corporate systems were still accessed through special terminal emulation software, but Microsoft got fat on selling millions of Windows and Office licenses to their enterprise customers.

Over the past 40 years nobody has questioned the wisdom of having a company purchase and control the hardware and software that employees use to do their jobs.  The wide availability and acceptance of consumer devices is opening up the opportunity of resetting the equation again.  It is not only possible, but there are many benefits from taking this approach.  There are precedents in the construction industry.  Most construction workers are expected to bring their own tools.  It makes perfect sense when working with dangerous equipment.  You want to be completely comfortable with the tools so you can focus on doing your job well.  This even extends into the engineering and architectural professions; I have a complete set of drafting tools from my years as a Registered Architect.

From the enterprise perspective, support costs can be substantially reduced.  Keeping track of thousands of devices is a known exercise in futility.  A major broadcasting organization finally paid for an inventory of their workers’ systems a few years ago and found an extra 3000 undocumented systems in the organization.  Another company had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about employee owned devices and now has to semi-support about 11,000 of them.

From the employees’ perspective, using a single device that is used for both home and work, means eliminating nerd belt syndrome – two or more devices hanging from their waist or taking up space in carrying bags.  There is nothing worse than hearing a ring from one of the devices and trying to figure out which one needs to be answered!

Rather than attempting to halt the demand, the smarter path is to embrace BYOD’s by providing a safe and secure framework for their use.  This framework should have two complementary components: a BYOD policy and the technology framework and administration software to enforce it.  An official corporate BYOD policy would not be dissimilar to the corporate security policy.  To make it easier, some companies just incorporate their BYOD device policies directly into their standard security policy that all employees are expected to adhere to.  The key to successful enforcement is the implementation of the proper MDM software.

About the Author

Beth Cohen, Cloud Technology Partners, Inc.  Transforming Businesses with Cloud Solutions

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