Apple devices only? That's not BYOD

Given the choice, most users tend to want iPhones and iPads, so some IT organizations are standardizing on Apple. But that's just another way of hobbling user empowerment

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This rationale for BYOD won't be satisfied with going from one choice to two. Take my company, for example. It has long formally supported both Windows and Macs; employees get to choose, except for a handful of people in finance or HR, which uses core apps not available for OS X. Yet many employees have brought in iPads, Androids, iPhones, and so on that the company doesn't provide as standard equipment beyond sales and some top execs. Why? Because we regular employees find them handy for how we work, so we invest in them on our own dime.

Our IT group's approach has been to allow such devices if they meet the technical policies for security (such as encryption, passwords, and auto-lock) imposed through Exchange Server for email, calendar, and contacts access. Some of our internal tools are accessible via VPN, so if a device supports our VPN, it's permitted. Some devices support only some of those policies and capabilities, and they get less access than the ones that support them all (meaning iOS devices).

Analysts say that's the sensible approach to BYOD. As users, we know that's the way it works, so if someone really prefers Android, he or she knows that means no VPN access -- and decides from there if it's an OK loss when on the road.

As for information, we're all knowledge workers and need to manipulate documents, presentations, budgets, contracts, and so on. The company has to trust us. If it doesn't, we won't work there anymore and lose access to all networked resources when we leave. There's a risk of data loss from document copying or forwarding, but in our case, that's an acceptable risk given that you only get that access if you're trusted in the first place. To me, this approach is the classic BYOD model.

Its motivation is not merely about wanting a Mac or iPhone or iPad. If your employees are really seeking freedom to choose and adjust their own tool set, simply providing them Apple products formally probably won't satisfy their underlying desire for long; they'll end up wanting a new device that hasn't been invented yet or an app (cloud, mobile, or desktop) that you haven't thought about yet. Yes, go ahead and add Apple's product portfolio to your standard-equipment list, since that will satisfy many employees and give your IT group a nice management base to start from. Just don't expect that will end the desire for users to work with their own stuff.

Not all companies can satisfy that desire, for legitimate reasons. And employees at such companies know (or learn) that and will be grateful for a wider technology choice, even if closely managed. But for information-oriented companies that don't have a reason to impose such strict control, offering choice is great but won't be sufficient.

That's where the human-centered, policy-based approach to BYOD comes in. It's not a free-for-all as many in IT fear, but neither it is the controlled ecosystem many have spent years creating and maintaining. Sorry, but it's true.

This article, "Apple devices only? That's not BYOD," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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