Author:  Mike Anderson                        Date: June 14, 2012

Topic: Workplace                                  Research Note Number: 2012-17

Issues: What are the macro trends impacting the nature of work?

What are the best practices for harnessing the power of mobile computing?

Summary: BYOD (“bring your own device”) is central to a new way of working. Enterprises should move quickly to capture its potential before being overrun by its risks.

BYOD (“bring your own device”) is an issue at nearly every enterprise. Personally owned devices are central to a new way of working that goes far beyond remote access or mobile email. Many mobile workers own personal smartphones or tablets much more powerful than those their employers provide, and ubiquitous wireless networks give them broad access to enterprise systems. Thus enabled, these “power workers” don’t just provide their own technology; they create their own workplace, using the most effective tools for the time, place, and task to maximize their own productivity.

At the same time, however, IT groups have to manage a workplace provisioned by users with tools that were not designed from the top down to securely fit into the enterprise computing architecture – or even to interoperate with each other, given their diversity. This research note analyzes the key steps enterprises need to take to manage these uncertain side effects of BYOD.

BYOD is Already Here – How Should IT Respond?

Individuals bring personal devices into nearly every workplace and try to use them to access enterprise networks. While each situation is different, every IT group should have a policy to effectively manage this activity, because it’s not going away. Although executives may demand a rapid response to the users who have already taken up BYOD, IT should take the time to develop a meaningful strategy by addressing some high-level business questions:

  • What value and business impact can be gained from supporting BYOD?
  • How broadly can the enterprise support BYOD, given the visible benefits?
  • How much support should BYOD users get?
  • What consideration and priority should IT give security, risk management and data protection?
  • How much corporate control over personal devices, apps and data will senior managers demand, and how much will users tolerate?
  • How will workers and the business share the ownership and costs?


BYOD has changed the balance of power for technology decisions in the enterprise. In the past, IT groups identified, selected and deployed the best technology for the business, but that time has passed. Now, tech-savvy users are often first to get the newest technologies, while businesses lag behind.

BYOD has created issues that most IT shops would rather see go away. Those that have become efficient and well-run have done so through standards that they can maintain and support with manageable resource commitments. Most of them support a growing portfolio of devices, but they still control the selection of hardware, standard configurations, preferred vendors and required software to manage the computing environment with a predictable set of skills.

“BYOD” used to mean that a few select, fully managed and secured devices were authorized to use corporate systems, services and data; these were typically smartphones owned by senior executives. To address the increasing diversity of devices, and the reality that many workers use three, four or even more of them on a daily basis, enterprises are moving from a device-centric strategy towards a user-centric strategy for mobile management. Although this is a positive step toward a more flexible and manageable approach, a strategy that manages diversity on any single dimension – user, device or data – will come up short in meeting business needs.

There is no way to stop employees from bringing their own devices to work, connecting them to networks and accessing data. There is also no point in trying. Personal tools make users more productive and effective, so why would businesses want to keep workers from using them? Instead, employers should enable workers while creating effective business rules and policies for all users, to effectively balance the user benefits with necessary business security and risk management.

Bottom Line

The movement toward BYOD, and helping workers make use of it, is here to stay and will affect every organization. Personal tools that make individuals more effective and productive are advancing faster than enterprises can keep up with, and letting workers maximize their own capabilities is a powerful strategy.

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