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Why does IT avoid BYOD?


If you’re not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play the safe side rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh in the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.

Failed Experiment

I succumbed to the fad of the moment two years ago when I purchased my first tablet to “bring my own device” and see if it works for me. I used it at first for personal stuff — to read and write blog posts and books, organize schedule and to do lists, etc. Later on, I tried to utilize it on some work-related activities like taking notes in meetings, writing email, updating and showing documents and presentations.  In the end, I found myself abandoning the experiment and chose instead to go back to my old dependable PC, company-issued Blackberry and, yes, old reliable pen and notebook. As far as mobile phones are concerned, of course I would prefer an iPhone, but my current issued Blackberry is adequate enough. So why bother? Why spend my own money for another phone?

I am not saying that BYOD does not work. But it did not apply to me, not for the work that I do, and not at this time. I am not sold on the current trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), at least not yet. I know that currently, companies tend to give in to the strong demand for BYOD. This demand usually comes from executives who want to use their tablets, smartphones and other devices for work.

Others may argue that they are more productive with smartphones and tablets of their choosing. I would not be surprised if people working in sales who are road warriors and executives who survive on emails, meetings, and phone calls find BYOD highly beneficial.  Technology companies may also benefit from BYOD through encouraging innovation and productivity. To me, the decision driver should be if it makes sense for the business.  It is not what employees want; it is what they need in order to best serve their customers.

BYOD Promised Benefits and Options

On the other hand, one of BYOD’s supposed benefits is the reduction of IT costs. That cost is mostly associated with the cost of mobile devices itself and the monthly recurring data charges. So if you are a company looking for cost reduction as leverage for going BYOD, make sure you make your employees seriously cover the expense.

Another alternative to BYOD is to provide employees with options, however limited. One example is to provide both IOS and Blackberry (without having to endorse either one). This will provide employees with choices without worrying about crafting agreements for security. The company is also in control of support for these devices because they know the platform as it is part of their service set. IT can also open dialogue with other business units on where mobile technology can be of value to the business process and develop mobile applications that are secure and integrated to the company’s platform.

Argument Against BYOD

The other reason why IT is not rushing to embrace BYOD is the challenge of managing support for the devices. While those devices are easy to use from the user standpoint, they’re not so easily integrated into corporate IT. It takes time to train IT personnel to learn the platform and be able to sufficiently support it. As it is, IT is already burdened with limited resources focused on critical projects and operations. This makes it harder to venture into new areas.

However, the biggest argument against BYOD is information security. There is a very real risk of loss of informational assets and vulnerability to expose company data to outside the company walls that could cause undue harm to its customers and stakeholders. It is obvious that company information is probably less secure if it is on a device that the businesd does not have exclusive control over. If you are a bank, a medical institution, a tech company etc., information security is something that you can’t compromise.  If you are not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play it safe  rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles

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  1. Vaughan Merlyn
    June 15, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Glenn, thanks for the post! I applaud the fact that you ran the experiment. So many IT leaders I’ve come across are in what I call “blind denial” – they don’t really understand the pros and cons, but want to ‘just say no’ in order to keep their lives simple.

    The reality here is that the domain of personal devices has separated from the business use domain, and yet ‘personal’ and ‘business’ are increasingly inseparable. In other words, corporate IT shops have to figure out how to safely allow BYOD. I think many employees will gladly take on the cost and logistics of procuring, maintaining and supporting their own choice of device. When I was a corporate employee, I did not expect our IT department to pay for my home stereo – nor did I expect them to advise me on its set up or support me when it broke!

    Personal devices such as smart phones, tablet PCs, and who knows what next are equivalent to my home stereo – except for the fact that they introduce information security issues, as you suggest. IT leaders have to crack that issue – it’s not rocket science – just an inevitable need.

    • Glenn Remoreras
      June 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

      Hi Vaughan, Thanks for your input. I think it boils down to a business decision, value vs risk, benefit vs cost… right now I think BYOD is a better fit for smaller business who has less information security risk and less complex IT ecosystem. What I see in companies racing towards this trend is a tremendous lack of awareness of the risk it constitutes. Awareness is where companies should start, to try to make employees know of the potential pitfalls and risk that could impact them and the company. I think awareness in itself will address some of the risk that I see…and also like you said, this is an inevitable need, and like all needs somehow this will be addressed technologically in the near term.

  1. June 21, 2012 at 12:18 am

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