A week of BYOD discussions

My corporate laptop infuriates me* – which might explain why I’m such a big advocate for the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model that a lot of people are talking about right now (and which I’ve written about previously).

This week saw the culmination of a couple of initiatives I’ve been working on in this space and I thought it might be worth sharing some of what I found.

First up is some work I’ve been involved in with University College London, presenting an industry view on BYOD to students studying a Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) module as they work towards an MSc in Human Computer Interaction.

SSM is an approach to information gathering and analysis, not really oriented towards problem solving but for arriving at a situation where all stakeholders can work with some form of concensus. The students have listened to views on BYOD from me (as an IT technology and services supplier) along with IT directors from the government, education and media sectors and, earlier this week, I found myself on a panel listening to the students presenting their findings.

It was interesting to see what they had to say and, whilst the SSM approach didn’t necessarily answer my problem (which is helping customers to adopt BYOD without negatively impacting their business), there were some little nuggets that I thought were worthy of highlight:

  • Firstly, the students told me that my company needed to think about “consumer-driven product design”. Basically, they want sexy laptops [preferably ones with aluminium cases and an illuminated picture of an apple on the lid?] but seriously, vendors like HP, Dell and Lenovo [Fujitsu?] need to either, leave the consumer market to others (because it’s massively commoditised anyway) or come up with something that’s attractive to consumers, rather than to IT departments.  Whilst I can’t comment on what Fujitsu might do in future – it was good feedback – and some of the recent announcements at MWC and CEBIT might show some direction towards meeting this demand.
  • The students also told me that IT vendors need an expanded portfolio of device-agnostic services, that meet security requirements for protection of corporate data, yet provide flexibility (I happen to agree entirely – let IT managers concentrate on data, not devices – more on that in a few paragraphs’ time…)
  • They also want consumer-driven support services, citing AppleCare as an example. I did quip that they meant “expensive” then, but again, it’s interesting to see Apple held up as the gold standard in the eyes of today’s young consumers (many of whom also have jobs – I have to admit having been surprised to see that many of the students were not 22 year-olds straight from their first degree but mature students, studying whilst balancing family and work pressures).
  • Interestingly, generation Y does not think that the demand for BYOD is in any way generational (I’ve long since thought this was something used by companies for marketing, rather than a true phenomenon) – their assessment was that desire for BYOD is more driven out of an attitude to change, combined with personal needs. In addition the students felt that cognitive ability (the ability to abstract or problem-solve) presents an opportunity upon which to focus training in the workplace, and one group suggested the provision of training that provides each generation with an understanding of how others work. Another group felt that BYOD could even be an equaliser between generations.
  • One group felt that, where BYOD is a step too far, the choose your own device (CYOD) model (employed by Avanade, I believe) could work – with employees choosing one of a number of standard devices from an approved list.
  • And another consideration was that not everyone wants to carry a device around with them – either through fears of security with high value items on public transport (that may be a London thing: I’ve taken my devices on buses and trains for years) or because of social activities after work.

Then, yesterday, I was with a group of senior architects, listening to CIO Connect present on some of their research findings in the BYO space, before I gave my own take on things (and how we, as an organisation, can respond to our customer’s needs in this area). For obvious reasons, I won’t be spilling the beans on my employer’s plans but it was interesting to see what CIOs are saying about the trend:

  • Consumerisation is the second-largest change CIOs have seen in their careers, behind ecommerce, joint with business re-engineering and ahead of cloud computing [I found cloud’s position surprising – maybe that’s because I work for a systems integrator].
  • Many BYOD initiatives are being driven from the boardroom (e.g. the CEO’s Christmas present) but there are advantages across the business (dependant upon role).
  • Benefits are employee productivity (44%), employee satisfaction (29%), end user innovation (15%) and cost reduction (12%).
  • Funding model is split with 48% using company funds, 15% co-funding and 37% requiring employees to fund the device costs.
  • Concerns are mostly around security/leakage, company/brand reputation, technical support, costs and software licensing.

In terms of the solutions being employed, I found a little too much emphasis on what I would call transitional technologies (sticking plaster, if you like) – virtual desktops, and hosted shared desktops – but if that’s helping to move things forward in terms of device ubiquity then I guess it’s a step in the right direction.  Ultimately BYOD depends on greater adoption of service-oriented architectures (which is being driven by adoption of cloud applications); on de-perimiterisation (moving from a system of trusted endpoints and secure networks to a new model based on a combination of user, device, application and location); on switching from a mindset that sees devices as assets to one where the data is the asset; and on a willingness to work through a plethora of non-technical issues.

I’m sure I’ll be returning to this subject in future…

*My Fujitsu Lifebook S7220 is a perfectly good machine – and was great when I used to run lots of virtual machines to do lots of techie stuff – but the BIOS doesn’t support client hypervisors, my IT department has crippled it with some awful disk encryption software (not BitLocker, which is built into Windows) and it’s just too big and heavy. In my current role I’d like something a bit smaller and lighter – an ultrabook would be nice… I just have to wait for mine to hit it’s fourth anniversary so I can order a replacement.

Leave a Reply