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4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program

Many employees are ready and willing to use their own computers to get work done. Consider these steps to launch a bring-your-own-computer program.

World-renowned author and business consultant Peter F. Drucker observed: "Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done."

For the past several years, infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations have pushed for standardized, locked-down corporate PCs in order to allow as little variation as possible. They want few surprises and even fewer support calls. While this approach might keep IT operations costs lower, it brings an unintended consequence of stagnation from the worker's point of view. Forrester's Q4 2011 Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey showed that workers are dissatisfied. They are spending an average of $1,253 annually of their own money on computers for work purposes, with 43% of workers saying they have used their own personal computer or smartphone to do their job in the past year.

Given the competitive advantages that empowered workers can bring, and the risks associated with underground behaviors, embracing empowered workers and unlocking bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) programs are more important now than ever. That doesn't mean embracing anarchy; rather, changing mindsets, from one of prohibition to one of channeling and enablement, will set you apart from your peers. How should you get started?

Step 1: Learn About The Available Tools

The solution to variation for BYOC programs is a combination of client virtualization; using the correct management tools for the job; education; and matching skills. There are several methods for providing workers with a standardized Windows environment without a corporate PC. The most common methods are hosted virtual desktops (e.g., Citrix XenDesktop, VMware View, and now Microsoft VDI), desktops-as-a-service (e.g., Desktone, tuCloud, and dinCloud), and locally deployed and managed virtual desktops (e.g., MokaFive, Parallels, and VMware Player and Fusion). Each carries its own benefits and drawbacks--learn about them to figure out how they can, or can't, help you.

Step 2: Understand Employee Work Styles

The technology that employees use for their jobs should be a function of their work styles. However, it's true that many I&O professionals have a better understanding of technology and internal processes than they do the nuances of employee work styles and productivity drivers. It will take a concerted effort and a formal initiative to shift this imbalance toward greater work-style knowledge, but it's well worth the time to do so.

I&O pros should be able to answer questions such as:
1. Which workers work more away from a desk?
2. Which workers are willing to buy their own computers and use them for work?
3. Which workers would be happy with a locked-down computer?
4. Which workers use advanced collaboration tools?
5. Which workers pose the most information risk?
6. Which workers would lose significant productivity with hosted virtual desktops?

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Not every employee is a candidate for BYOC. To develop a meaningful understanding of who will benefit from BYOC initiatives, I&O pros need an analysis of employee work styles and an exercise to group similar work styles into a handful of personas. Forrester built the Workforce Technology Assessment methodology to help our clients perform these assessments and get to know their workforce. In addition to creating productivity enhancements and costs savings, these assessments illuminate which workers will benefit from BYOC programs, and they help I&O pros form a rational basis for deciding for whom BYOC is not appropriate. It should take no longer than 30 days to assemble a sufficiently improved understanding of work styles to feed the next steps in the process.

Step 3: See If There's A Better Way

Frederick Winslow Taylor, widely regarded as the father of scientific management, said: "Whenever a workman proposes an improvement, it should be the policy of the management to make a careful analysis of the new method ... and whenever the new method is found to be markedly superior to the old, it should be adopted as the standard for the whole establishment." For example, VMware Workstation was introduced in 1995 on Linux first, and it was a game changer for technology pros who needed a way to run multiple operating system instances at the same time, such as sales engineers and software developers.

Today, tech-savvy pros are using tools like Microsoft MED-V, VMware Workstation and Fusion, and derivatives like MokaFive to run a corporate PC image in order to provide access to business applications, such as Outlook and Siebel, while they use the PC or Mac of their choice underneath. Yet few I&O organizations have formally studied these as a potentially viable alternative.

Step 4: Define Your Self-Support Zones

A natural outcome of the exercises above is to develop a better understanding of who can potentially move into self support. Workers with moderate or better technical abilities, few dependencies on internal or legacy applications, and low security requirements are the best candidates for self support initially. They'll also be the least likely to need help to remain productive with the computer of their choice.

While the self-support zone may initially be small, client virtualization, community development, and self-service tools will allow you to rapidly expand the self-support zone. Client virtualization is already a proven way to improve supportability, and it works particularly well for BYOC programs when properly matched to work styles. By supplying BYOC workers with a standardized Windows environment in either a hosted or locally deployed virtual machine, you can provide a clean separation between work and personal applications and data, while also improving manageability and supportability.

David K. Johnson is senior analyst at Forrester Research, serving infrastructure & operations professionals.

Extending core virtualization concepts to storage, networking, I/O, and application delivery is changing the face of the modern data center. In the Pervasive Virtualization report, we discuss all these areas in the context of four main precepts of virtualization. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2012 | 7:11:35 PM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
Or just get your employees a decent system and not one of these off the shelf Dell boxes that crap out after a few months are run as fast as a tortoise in hibernation.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 6:19:01 PM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
Yes, there is an advertisement for Citrix, VMware, Microsoft and the other proprietary virtualization tools in this article. There is no reason people need to use them though. VERDE works just fine. Red Hat KVM works. That is a substantial cost reduction.

Microsoft obviously doesn't want to lose money when people move to thin-client, so they license their software to make thin-client more expensive than it should be. There is no reason most people need to use Microsoft Windows anymore. It will require ditching Office as well, but it is definitely possible to use Red Hat or Ubuntu or whatever you like as the host OS image. IBM SmartClient and Oracle/Sun VDI both have integrated VDI stacks which provide everything you need in one bundle. IBM's has no cost, unless you want to add Lotus... not sure about Oracle, but they are both a fraction of the cost of the Microsoft-Citrix/VMware model.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 12:45:50 PM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
As usual, this article makes no mention of cost. We have a pretty good method of managing in house computers to the point that we cannot drive costs down by using Citrix, VDI, etc... (by the time you figure out cost for Terminal Services CALs, Server Infrastrucutre (memory and diskspace, etc...) require to support the BYOD. We have found that allowing BYOD devices to RDP and remote control company desktop computers does allow for some reduction in cost by not requiring as many company owned laptops (i.e. allowing home desktop, laptops, tablets to take the place of workers needing to take home company laptops).
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 4:38:09 AM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
I couldn't agree with this article more. Bring on the BYOE (everything). IT should write applications for the browser with as much as possible written on the server side. It makes it easier for IT to manage and upgrade as well as for end users because they don't have to install the latest version of some plug-in and bring their PCs in for upgrades. When everything is written for an OS agnostic browser, client device management just became much easier.

Now there are some who will wring their hands about security concerns. I would ask them this question: What is a more secure management strategy, having all data contained on locked down servers behind a firewall with secure VPN access, or having hundreds/thousands of PCs wandering around at Starbucks with confidential data stored on the hard drive? PC-server is the security problem, not the solution.

IT should not be in the business of picking business tools for end users. There is no need anymore for IT not to be enabled to work with a variety of client OSs and devices. As you mention, this is not new, untested technology. It has been around for over a decade.

If a company wants to retain ownership and control of the devices, I would also mention that this a great opportunity to introduce a lower cost client OS, Ubuntu, RHEL, or whatever. In the next few years, the only thing a client OS will be required to do for the vast majority of users is open a web browser.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 4:16:54 AM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
"When talking BYOD or BYOC, the primary point is to ensure that corporate data is safe."

If there is any data on the device or computer, you are doing it wrong. All of the data should reside on the server with zero confidential data stored on the device or computer.

From mainframe to client-server to cloud is a 360 back to centralized computing. Instead of all workloads running on a mainframe, they runs on a bunch of clustered servers (or possibly a mainframe again) but the principle is the same. Prior to the client-server fiasco, security, data governance, access controls were simple to manage. With client-server, someone thought it would be easier and more secure to have 5,000 computers to manage instead of five and security, data governance, access control, data management, etc took a giant step backwards. The centralized model needed to be modified and instead it was wholesale abandoned. The move back towards centralized will improve manageability, security, access controls, etc... it has been a slow path back toward the mainframe/centralized computing since the internet was invented.

"And finally, who bares the brunt of supporting a user's device when there's some crazy issue that pops up because the user's child's favorite application requires one version of something like Java while the user's role as an employee requires using an application that requires a second (and competing) version?"

You are thinking about this from a client-server mindset. If you do it right, there should be no Java processing on the client side. It should all be done on the server side with end users holding screens that show them what is going on in the server, be it a corporate server or a server on the internet.... Regardless, people seem to be figuring it out now with their own PCs, so I would not be too worried about it. If someone's computer does get really out of whack, just wipe the OS image and start over. As there is nothing on the client side other than a web browser, it isn't a big deal.
Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/3/2012 | 2:06:41 AM
re: 4 Steps To A Successful BYOC Program
With the move to push applications and services into "the cloud", there's a lot of relevance here, but at the same time, some questionable relevance.

When talking BYOD or BYOC, the primary point is to ensure that corporate data is safe. When a user brings their own device into the corporate environment - who ultimately becomes responsible for any data stored on that device? The individual who actually owns the hardware or the company that owns (and is responsible for) the data on the device?

Sure, the consumerization of technology (devices, doo-dads, computers) has led to more users being able to supply their own needs - but is this really the best approach for an IT organization to adopt?

And finally, who bares the brunt of supporting a user's device when there's some crazy issue that pops up because the user's child's favorite application requires one version of something like Java while the user's role as an employee requires using an application that requires a second (and competing) version? I've seen this issue in the field, it's not pretty - especially when the user in question happens to be the CEO of the organization.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
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