A few weeks ago, RWW Channels Editor David Strom posted Why BYOD Isn’t a Trend. He skewers the notion that BYOD is new, notes that IT leaders have dealt with user-purchased tech for generations, and declares the “consumerization of IT” a new name for an old trend.
Strom’s take away: BYOD has been around since the ’80s, and the only change is that it is now writ large, thanks to low-cost smartphones, tablets, and Internet-enabled access to corporate data. But he asks the wrong question and misses a much more important point, about how rapid the influx of tablets is changing enterprise IT. Don’t ask if BYOD is a trend. Ask what IT leaders are doing about BYOD.
Study after study shows that IT organizations are not ready and not reacting to this exponential growth. Many have done little more than providing basic connectivity for their tablet users.
And that means more than just devices themselves. It means SaaS; the cloud; mobility; social networking; new app delivery and support models; and all the inherent opportunities, rewards, and risks (security, privacy, and so on) that come with these. IT organizations that adopt a posture of simply accepting devices into the workplace, and fail to proactively evolve processes and platforms to optimize productivity and minimize risk, are ceding competitive advantage.
If we look back to the ’80s, when PCs first appeared, there were far fewer people bringing their own technology to work. Users didn’t expect their employers or vendors to support their new gadget. They typically worked disconnected and alone. The impact of the new device was largely limited to that person’s work life. And the focus of those bringing technology to work was often the technology itself. Today’s tablets are also more powerful and pervasive.
Increasingly, requests for IT support of new technologies are more often stated in terms of business value today. It is no longer the case that users want their preferred technology to be supported because they like it better. There is typically a compelling business case accompanying the request, something people controlling budgets understand. They are seeking to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, increase market share in their core business, reduce expenses, and achieve other tangible business objectives.
In the 1980’s, when IT said “no,” the answer was “no.” You couldn’t exactly sneak a PC into the office, as you can a tablet or smartphone. And connecting to the network and corporate data assets was impossible without IT support. Today, it’s easy.
Now “No” is not an option. That is a new trend. But how IT says “yes” is the crucial decision factor; and the policy, platforms, and practices IT puts into place are the critical success factors. When faced with the ask, we need to work with our business partners (again, consumers, partners, as well as employees) to understand their needs, and help them develop solutions that increase business value and productivity, while protecting corporate assets. The proliferation of devices in the enterprise might make it appear that we are making progress, but there remains much to be done.
So, yes, Mr. Strom, BYOD is not a new trend. And you’re right for pointing out that many in the industry are touting the wrong thing. What is new is the scope of BYOD and everything it brings with it–including the need for some IT leaders to treat the new consumer technologies as more than just candy for employees. Those who recognize the business value they can extract from this consumer movement will be those who leave the competition behind.