Putting BYOD to the test
The three-variable breakdown for the long-term success of BYOD looks something like this:
Customer vs. consumer: By definition, with BYOD the customer and consumer are the same person, unless the customer is a relative of the consumer -- for example, when a teenaged offspring helps a parent decide which smartphone to buy. For all intents and purposes, the customer and consumer are the same. No problem with success on this front.
Affordability: The wallet is the employee, not the business. By definition, the wallet has no problem with the expense. If the wallet did have a problem with the expense, the employee wouldn't own the device in question, and the issue of whether he or she might bring it into the office would never come up. Affordability isn't a barrier, either.
Disruption: BYOD might cause disruption in three major areas -- integration, information security, and support -- but as it turns out, not by very much.
For the most part, BYOD means smartphones and tablets. Their need for integration is mostly limited to hooking them up to a company's email, directory, and calendar systems. This never was a huge deal, and it's become a progressively smaller deal ever since the iPhone augured in the BYOD era. Right now, integration is close enough to a nonissue that we can ignore it.
In the future, we can expect companies to develop mobile client front ends for at least some of their core applications (in the case of commercial applications, we can expect their vendors to develop the mobile client front ends). When that starts to happen, BYOD integration could become a more disruptive force. But by then, it will be too late.
Integration doesn't pose any barrier to BYOD's success. How about information security?
As this topic has received almost as much attention as cloud security, we aren't going to play dog-pile-on-the-rabbit here at Advice Line headquarters. This is how it shakes out (in intentionally superficial terms because the question isn't whether BYOD poses security challenges; it's whether BYOD is disruptive when it comes to security practices):
The need to support mobile employees and teleworkers led information security to shift its focus before BYOD became an issue, and this shift is all BYOD needs to be acceptable on the information security front. (For a different take on BYOD security, check out Roger Grimes' "How to have BYOD and security, too.")
The shift is away from protecting the periphery -- say, relying on one or more firewall shells -- to protecting the assets, relying on, for example, column encryption technology so that even in the event of a security breach, the data that's stolen won't be of any value.
Also, as threats have shifted from penetrating technical vulnerabilities to Trojan horses and phishing attacks, there's less and less that's unique to BYOD tech with respect to where the dangers lie.
Information security? Not a barrier to BYOD, or it shouldn't be if it's current in its practices.
That leaves user support. Back when PCs were new and employees considered them mysterious, user support was a big, hairy deal. Now it isn't. An increasing fraction of the workforce uses technology for recreation and a variety of personal purposes; many grew up with it. They're the ones who are bringing in their own devices. As BYOD isn't mandatory, they don't need IT's help to use this stuff, so "support" mostly consists of letting employees know when the email system is down.
Analysis: The customer and consumer are the same. The wallet (the employee) has already made the decision to buy. Disruption is minimal. BYOD has no reason not to succeed.
Of course, it's already succeeding, so to some extent this analysis is merely predicting the present -- a less hazardous task than predicting the future. Still, there's a difference between a bubble and a trend, and with BYOD there are plenty of skeptics left who still think it's more of a bubble. Perhaps, after this, there will be fewer of them.
This story, "The realist's guide to BYOD and why it's a long-term trend," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.