The Consumerization of IT
In the beginning, life was simple. Blackberry ruled the roost. You put in a BES server, connected it with Exchange and your employees could receive email no matter where they were in the world (for the most part). And then it happened...the iPhone (thank you Steve Jobs!). Now EVERYONE had a personal smartphone. Not only did employees want mail, but they wanted apps. They were tired of carrying two devices. They hated the corporate “standard”. THEY wanted to choose their phone.
Sound familiar? The advent of the iPhone (followed quickly by the Android devices) is probably the single event that caused many CIOs and companies to rethink their cell phone strategy. The pressure of consumerization hit us front and center. For many of these companies, the smartphone was their first foray into BYOD...Bring Your Own Device.
For us, there were primary two drivers to consider BYOD for cell phones. The first was this pressure...the consumerization, carrying two devices, “why can’t my work phone function like my new “name your brand” phone?” pressure. Second, and honestly probably a more significant factor, was the astronomical amount of time IT was spending ordering, maintaining, troubleshooting, reviewing invoices for over usage and mis-usage.
As it turned out, we caved to the consumerization pressure first and moved away from the always reliable Blackberry environment to Droids. Everyone loved the phones...at first. First came sync problems (never had those with the BES). Next came an OS upgrade that literally fried the phones we had chosen. We spent months replacing the phones, arguing with the carrier, arguing with the manufacturer, and fixing our department’s damaged reputation.
As usage (read “costs”) continued to rise we knew we had to do something. The CFO and I researched voice and data plans and came up with a three-tiered reimbursement plan (voice; voice and data; voice, data and hotspot). We then met with legal counsel to create a mobile device use policy for personal devices. Our plan allowed for exceptions: those employees whose job required them to have a phone but who could not afford one of their one. In those cases, we still own the phone.
The roll out went fairly smooth, some bumps, but not many. We found very quickly that managing the access rights of the phones was still very cumbersome, especially as access grew beyond just email to include document access, application access and more. A year after we went BYOD, we implemented a mobile device management (MDM) system (ok, trust me, I know this was backwards...NOW!)
What has this done to the support of phones? Our IT department now only deals with connectivity to email or our document server. While the exact steps may differ from device to device, they are able to support Apple, Droid and Windows devices. If the employee is dealing with anything beyond that connection, our techs may help them in the name of customer service, but most often they refer them to their carrier for support. For us, moving to BYOD for cell phones has given us a significant cost savings, not only in real dollars out the door, but in employee time and effort. It also made us heroes in the eyes of those who wanted to use one device not two, and wanted their work phone to function like their personal phone.
The industry and the tools are now beginning to catch up with the push of consumer devices into the enterprise. Many MDM solutions now include intelligent wiping of the device, so if the need arises to blow corporate data off the phone, you don’t also delete all those pictures of the kids, or the banking app, or the Facebook app, or, or, or. The device manufacturers themselves are including personal and work partitions to further enable the segregation of home and work.
About the time the dust settled from all of this, Mr. Jobs got us again...the iPad! Months later, of course, came all the other tablets and a whole new category of device hit the enterprise. We’ve taken a split approach to tablets. Where there is sufficient business case, the company will buy the tablet (standard issue, of course). If no compelling business case exists, we will allow the connection of a personal tablet with VP approval and the signing of the mobile device policy.
Will it stop there? No, not at all. We have already seen Macs, long the mainstay of Marketing departments and the bane of system engineers everywhere, are starting to push further into the organization. Our long term plan is to become totally device agnostic. Will we ever get to BYOD for laptops and desktops? I’m not sure our culture is ready for it. Maybe in a few years. Heck, we will have to deal with WEARABLES before you know it! Now, where’s that bottle of bourbon?
This is a continuation of a series of posts looking at the confluence of changes impacting the CIO and IT leadership. Next up “It’s all a game - Gamification”.
Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.
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