How to screw up a BYOD rollout

Companies with naive or shortsighted goals find that dumping mobile devices onto employees doesn't play out as planned

The good news is that more and more companies are letting employees bring in their own smartphones and tablets, acknowledging the BYOD phenomenon. The bad news is that many are doing it badly and often regretting the results. It doesn't have to be that way, but an unhappy outcome seems to be the norm, especially at midsize companies, says Brandon Hampton, a director at Mobi Wireless Management, which provides a management service for mobile devices and carrier plans.

What shocked me was why so many customers are unhappy with the results.

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The naive motivation for BYOD
The typical experience, Hampton says, is that companies that decide to migrate a large portion of their users from corporate-provisioned smartphones to employee-owned units -- in telco parlance, from corporate-liable to individual-liable -- are unhappy that it takes 20 to 30 minutes per user to accomplish the transition, including device setup, message forwarding, and so on. Also, they normally can't reduce their telecom support staff when the transition is done even though they've doubled or tripled the number of users in the process.

My reaction: How can they not be happy that two to three times as many employees are now able to be productive when on the go, while maintaining the same support overhead? (Hampton reported that support calls drop from an average of 4.5 per user per year to 2.5 when employees use their own devices, and the nature of support changes from dealing with billing questions to dealing with corporate access questions.) I also thought, "How could they expect the transition to require no effort? Plus, don't they get it's a one-time investment in increased productivity?"

Hampton laughed at my naïveté. The reason most companies -- especially midsize ones -- do a BYOD transition is not to increase productivity but to palm off telecom costs onto employees. Their goal is to reduce absolute cost; productivity and employee satisfaction are mere side effects. That of course is the problem: Their goals are naive, so what should be viewed as a positive outcome isn't. The problem is not that BYOD itself is negative, it's that many companies do it for the wrong reason and don't get what they wanted.

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