Nothing is as powerful as a successful BYOD program, but that power becomes toxic when BYOD is treated as a cosmetic fix.
I recently learned that botulinum toxin -- more commonly known as Botox -- is a lethal but naturally occurring substance. It's one of the most toxic substances known, but when correctly applied has enormous therapeutic value -- not to mention its place in the cosmetic universe as a way to hold back the ravages of time by wiping out wrinkles and frown lines.
All this got me thinking that BYOD is essentially the same for enterprise IT -- it's a toxin, but one that can be used for good.
BYOD is also naturally occurring. From executives demanding iPad access, to sales managers sneaking in the latest Android device -- there's no stopping it. As such, its therapeutic value (increased productivity and cost reduction) is clear. It's also well understood that, when sanctioned, BYOD could just be the panacea needed to breathe life into a wrinkled IT organization aged by outdated practices. So what's the catch, you might ask -- surely this is good medicine we can all swallow? Well not necessarily, especially if you're in the "cosmetic BYOD" management game.
Unfortunately, like its medicinal toxic brethren, BYOD is often managed cosmetically -- liberally applied as a quick fix using a variety of tools to support an increasingly demanding and tech-savvy workforce. But as with any cosmetic remedy, the fix is often superficial, doesn't last forever, and worse, still can lead to some pretty severe and unintended consequences -- a little like those celebrity cosmetic surgery disasters on the cover of gossip magazines.
So here are five tips for avoiding the perils of cosmetic BYOD while still "beautifying" your productivity.
BYOD side effects -- Medical practitioners strongly advise against administering something as powerful as Botox in settings without professional supervision. The same applies to BYOD, with IT and security professionals helping alleviate risks and protect business health from "shadowy" practices. Using our toxin analogy, this includes dealing with side effects and infections (security and risk exposures), nerve damage (telecom expense blowouts), or allergic reactions (ill-prepared infrastructure).
Acceptable toxicity levels -- BYOD projects fail miserably when IT departments enforce restrictive policies and controls. This is partially due to shortcomings in management technologies that don't support the privacy concerns of employees who are loathe to let IT anywhere near their personal apps and content.
Advances in mobile app and content management will of course help -- for example, containerizing an employee's apps and data -- but they should also support enterprise requirements like geo-fencing secure locations or encrypting highly sensitive information.
IT pros should also expect the unexpected, building the scale needed support the next good toxin (like wearable tech). So if you think you know the number of devices and apps that need managing – quadruple it and then assess your capabilities.
Beauty in the eye of the beholder -- Employees from the CEO to a service desk analyst will measure the effectiveness of a BYOD program based on its ability to support the "me factor." IT professionals must of course build the flexibility to support personal preferences, but without the cost burden of maintaining multiple tools. Also critical will be the speed and agility needed to support the simple things in business we all take for granted like providing secure content management and email. Remember, if you can't provide ubiquitous, usable, and secure functions, employees won't blame their device, they'll blame IT and then work around it.
Age goes with beauty -- The beautiful Retina display of the iPad Air, or the processing power of the Samsung Galaxy S4, mean nothing if they're office paperweights. This means IT departments should always consider including the cost of integrating back-office systems and applications into any BYOD initiatives.
One CIO I know did just this. Under pressure to initiate a BYOD program, he realized that success depended on re-architecting legacy back-end systems to support a mobile workforce. As such, he determined an accurate cost of the work over a three-year period and factored this into his business case and budget plans.
What made this compelling for the business wasn't just employee device support, but also the productivity gains realized when mobile sales teams could securely connect to systems at the head office and avoid the error-prone double handling of data. Additionally, quantifiable business metrics like sales order processing time are being used to gauge BYOD success -- which, when combined with intangibles like employee satisfaction, is a real win-win.
Another commonsense approach is for IT to build mobile support into its own legacy service management tools, especially the service desk. This not only improves support, but demonstrates to mobile-savvy employees that IT is leading the BYOD charge.
Time waits for no one -- The old saying that today's IT project is tomorrow's maintenance legacy applies equally to BYOD management. As BYOD takes hold, business unit managers will demand faster delivery of mobile apps, or access to new cloud services that are better engineered to support mobile.
Therefore, IT leaders must constantly review application delivery practices, security policies, and integration and infrastructure enhancements needed to ensure BYOD doesn't wither and die on the proverbial vine.
BYOD is happening, whether IT likes it or not. Successful programs balance the needs of employees with robust yet non-intrusive management features.
As your BYOD journey continues, let the good toxin flow but always make sure real business benefits are not compromised by cosmetic quick fixes.
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Peter Waterhouse is a senior technical marketing advisor for CA Technologies' strategic alliance, service providers, cloud, and industry solutions businesses. View Full Bio
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