Stop measuring BYOD benefits with empty elixirs like employee productivity and happiness.

Peter Waterhouse, Senior Technical Marketing Advisor, CA Technologies

September 12, 2014

5 Min Read

I'm always impressed how our industry sells the value of tech. Mostly, it's been pretty clear-cut: Buy some hardware and you'll save here, or replace this software and you'll win more customers.

Sometimes, however, we come across a trend where value is more difficult to quantify. So we close the spread sheets and turn off the ROI calculators, turning instead to more subjective benefits like employee productivity and job satisfaction.

These are benefits I like to call pixie dust. They're powerful but dangerous because when we over-inhale our organization becomes victim to so much subjective euphoria that rational thinking -- and a solid business case -- goes out the window.

We've been sprinkling a lot of pixie dust over BYOD.

With BYOD, consumer tech adoption has made the enterprise crossover, meaning tech folks must get their heads around managing things they don't actually own. It's also a weird notion that BYOD isn't actually a physical thing at all; rather it's an invitation for employees to attend a tech party they often crash anyway.

[BYOD's power becomes toxic when it's treated as a cosmetic fix. Read BYOD Is Like Botox]

So how can we quantify the benefits of BYOD? Because it's so difficult, we take the easy option – we start sprinkling pixie dust.

Here are two magical elixirs I've seen applied to BYOD:

The Happiness Pill
Do you want to be recognized as a progressive company that includes BYOD as a workplace benefit along with pension plans, travel allowances, and stock options? The idea here is that talent is more likely to stick around your company when powered with mobility.

Color me an idealist, but I think happy employees make for a smarter workforce. Ok, I wouldn't rate a BYOD carrot over more tangible employment benefits, but if it helps with my work you can count me in with my iPad at the ready – plus my personal cloud, apps, games, photos, songs, and videos.

But there is a problem with the BYOD happiness pill – it loses potency when diluted by IT management gotchas and usage policies. These are all perfectly reasonable, you might say. After all, if you were running a classy restaurant and supporting BYO-Drinks, you wouldn't accept patrons showing up with a keg of beer.

The trouble with employees is they're not always rational – especially when it comes to personal devices. And, as mobility increasingly supports us in more contextual, cognizant, and even emotional ways, people will be less tolerant of management controls that disrupt their behaviour. So woe betides anyone who screws up an employee's smartphone, because now you've interrupted their fitness regime, and perhaps prevented them starting their car or buying groceries on the way home.

For IT, supporting employee mobility while stoically protecting the business is tough. You're dealing with fuzzy emotional drivers but also non-negotiable stuff like business security and compliance. Obviously, cart-blanche BYOD won't work in heavily regulated industries, but neither will intrusive mobile device management controls. 

The trick, therefore, is to balance the happiness factor with a hefty dose of business realism. You can build flexible policies with the involvement of stakeholders while educating employees but with their mobile needs in mind. Tools such as enterprise mobility management play a big part, but be prepared to constantly review your requirements because, like workforce dynamics, they'll always be changing.

Remember too that BYOD shouldn't be treated as an isolated management headache, but integrated with other processes like self-service enterprise app access, single sign-on, and automated help desk support.

The Productivity Potion
If you're in the BYOD camp, you'll be talking up workforce productivity. But if you're a tech Luddite, the thought of a Candy Crush playing, social media juiced employee is too much to contemplate. After all, don't the surveys show that x billion dollars is lost in productivity every year due to employees wasting time on mobile devices?

I don't sit it either camp. I can't believe employees suddenly start acting like the "the walking dead" just because of tablets. But neither do I think productivity will skyrocket with smartphone access. So what am I missing? BYOD context, of course.

Context is what makes a simple mobile app a killer app. It's the secret sauce that helps people make decisions in their exact moment of need. Mobile context saves lives, sells more widgets, and gets you a shared ride home. It's also the productivity X-factor in BYOD, CYOD, or any other acronym.

Imagine you're a mobile healthcare caseworker. Having a tablet equipped with an app to record the needs of patients in their homes is great, but also a pain if you have to re-enter data back at the office due to concerns about transmitting sensitive data across public networks. In this case, what'll make BYOD shine is the context delivered by an app, but enabled with API security, seamless connectivity, and message routing.

Poor mobile strategies fail because too much attention is paid to the app itself and not enough to content and context. Great ones succeed because they engage and stay engaged with customers. It’s no different with BYOD, so seek out opportunities to connect your employees to the context, content and processes where true benefits can be measured. Then we can all claim to be happy and productive.

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About the Author(s)

Peter Waterhouse

Senior Technical Marketing Advisor, CA Technologies

Peter Waterhouse is a senior technical marketing advisor for CA Technologies' strategic alliance, service providers, cloud, and industry solutions businesses.

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