"The majority of employees today who don't get a company-provided cellphone still have a smartphone and want to use that phone as a center to better manage their own work/personal life balance," notes Christian Kane, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
The BYOD trend makes sense not just for employees. IT shops can also benefit by offloading the onerous task of supporting what's rapidly becoming a smorgasbord of phone choices and shifting their focus to value-added activities that can help differentiate the business.
"What we're finding is that it's not really strategic to do break/fix and full-on lifecycle management, including procurement and contract management, on devices like smartphones," Kane says. "Ultimately, if you have to support everything, then support is unsustainable."
IT departments are definitely starting to get the message. A Cisco-sponsored survey of 600 IT and business leaders found that 95 percent of companies allow employee-owned devices on the corporate network in some manner, with 36 percent saying they provide full support of those employee devices.
Of stipends and subsidies
Arinc, a global communications, engineering and integration provider -- and a long-time BlackBerry shop -- put the BYOD wheels in motion a year or so ago when users began pushing back on the company-issued BlackBerry.
"People in the organization began apologizing for it, and executive-level people started questioning whether they should be carrying it," notes Rick Napolitano, Arinc's CIO. "It became viewed as a negative status symbol as opposed to a positive one."
Instead of ditching the BlackBerry, which Napolitano believes is still superior to other platforms in terms of security, the company now offers a choice: Employees eligible for phones are either issued a corporate BlackBerry and pay nothing on their own, or they can choose their own personal device and plan and get reimbursed via a monthly stipend.
The stipend ranges from $55 a month for a cellphone to between $105 and $110 a month for a smartphone. Users can choose their own plan and telecommunications provider, or they can participate in Arinc's corporate program, which enables them to take advantage of the firm's volume discounts.
Instead of reimbursement via expense reports, which Napolitano believes would create a significant administrative burden, employees receive a stipend as part of their paycheck. If they do opt for the BYOD route, employees have to agree to policies that specify that IT can wipe the phone, including personal data like photos and music, in the event that it's lost or stolen.
For now, Napolitano has opted to keep the program optional as opposed to mandating a move to BYOD. "We found that when we made it voluntary, it keeps its attractiveness," he explains. "People are not feeling slighted, and there's little resistance because they don't feel like we're forcing them over."
About one quarter of Arinc users eligible for a phone have signed up for the firm's BYOD program, and Napolitano fully expects those numbers to grow. Most employees are choosing to make the transition when their contract is up, Napolitano says, so they don't incur fees related to switching or stopping service midstream, which they are responsible for even on company-issued phones and data plans.
The transition has freed up Napolitano's 100-person IT group, which supports 2,400 U.S. workers, from taking on a costly support burden. While IT does provide a modicum of support for non-corporate phones, mostly related to email setup, it does so without any adherence to the formal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that were in place for BlackBerry users.