The new BYOD: Businesses are now driving adoption

Savvy companies aren't waiting for users to bring in their own smartphones and tablets -- they're encouraging it

In 2010 and for much of 2011, many in IT got scared when they saw iPhones, iPads, and Android in the office, fearful these heretical devices would cause corporate collapse as the BlackBerry sanctum was sacked and untold evils followed. OK, so most companies today have moved past that initial fear and made peace with the notion that modern mobile devices were now part of their technology fabric, though driven by user demand. BYOD is now the norm at the majority of businesses.

But another shift has occurred in BYOD that's perhaps even more revolutionary: Enterprises are starting to actively encourage BYOD, not just passively accept it. That's what Good Technology has found in a survey of its customers released today. Good is one of the major providers of mobile device management (MDM) tools, especially to large enterprises. The survey's conclusions apply to businesses that are on the leading edge of the consumerization-of-IT phenomenon and actively engaging in it; according to Larry Dunn, Unisys's head of global IT consulting, most companies haven't yet embraced BYOD programmatically yet. Those companies of course have BYOD, but don't know it.

[ Learn about consumerization of IT in person March 4-6, 2012, at IDG's CITE conference in San Francisco. | Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]

Good's survey shows that BYOD adopters are not just supporting BYOD but visibly encouraging it -- because they see real ROI from the phenomenon. CIO surveys by the Aberdeen Group consultancy have also shown that CIOs are increasingly looking at mobile devices as productivity enhancers to be exploited, not as threats to be countered.

That positive reaction to BYOD is more likely to help companies do better where it counts -- serving customers and increasing productiviy -- than the passive, "I guess we have no choice" approach to BYOD that much of the first MDM wave of adoption reflected.

Why companies like BYOD
Consider these stats from Good: Two of the most highly regulated industries -- financial services and health care (including life sciences) -- are most likely to support BYOD. So are professional services and consulting, which are "well" regulated.

Good's vice president of strategy, John Herrema, says that upward of 90 percent of financial firms support BYOD. This shows two things: First, the security issues that IT folks often raise as objections are manageable. Second, there's major value in supporting BYOD, so it makes sense for such industries to actively do so.

The reason is devilishly simple, Herrema says: These businesses are very much based on using information, both as the service itself and to facilitate the delivery of their products and services. Mobile devices make it easier to work with information during more hours and at more locations. That means employees are more productive, which helps the company's bottom line. "If you can get these information workers connected night and day, you will see more ROI," Herrema says. That's clearly the appeal for financial services and professional services firms.

And if you think health care isn't information-oriented, think again. Doctors, nurses, and others work heavily with information systems, from charting to imaging. "Doctors especially are highly mobile and highly information-oriented, and those [iPhones and iPads, mainly] are the devices they flat-out prefer. And the iPad is a fantastic platform for medical apps," Herrema says. He also notes that health care was an early adopter of tablet computing a decade ago, with the first Windows XP-based devices. The devices didn't deliver, but the health care industry's desire for workable tablets didn't diminish due to the Windows tablets' failure, he notes -- just remained dormant until an effective tablet, the iPad, became available.

The Good survey also showed one notable dark spot: Government's embrace of BYOD is smaller than financial services, professional services, health care, and high tech, even though many government employees are information workers who would benefit like their counterparts in financial services and health care from using modern mobile devices. But an encouraging fact is that government adoption of BYOD has been growing each quarter, so it may not remain a laggard much longer. (An interesting factoid is that the federal government is much more BYOD-savvy than local governments are.) The legal industry is slower on the uptake than government, and it shows no BYOD growth. Ditto ffor the communications industry -- which proves that not all information industries yet get it.

As you would expect, businesses where employees' responsibilities are less oriented to working with information, such as retail, utlities, and manufacturing, are much less likely to support or encourage BYOD -- outside of sales, marketing, and executive use -- than most other industries. But they do better than the entertainment and media industry, which had the least use of BYOD. (The last fact may reflect lack of proactive IT and the high concentration of independent contractors rather than lack of user-driven mobile device usage.)

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