Industry experts agree that there's no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the provisioning of mobile devices. The two popular options are to have employees pick up all costs or to have the employee and company each pay a part (usually through a company stipend). Whichever option a business adopts, businesses should seize upon the willingness of employees to pay for some of all of their devices, service plans, and even apps, advises Ted Schadler, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.
The ideal route to consumerization at Nationwide Insurance, a company with 40,000 employees, is to keep BYOD cost-neutral. One quarter of its employees are reimbursed for their device, and these users will receive reimbursement for a new smartphone of their choice when their current contract runs out. (These employees mostly have BlackBerrys, as that had been the corporate standard.) All other employees are free to purchase a device and data plan of their choice at their own expense and request access to the corporate network.
Today, about 4,000 employees at Nationwide -- 3,500 smartphone users and 500 iPad users -- use non-BlackBerry devices and are managed through the insurer's new mobile device management (MDM) platform, from Good Technology. Of those 4,000 users, more than 1,000 are selfprovisioned BYOD users.
Policy around usage, or protecting the data, is every organization's No. 1 concern. At Nationwide, users agree to usage terms when they sign up for BYOD. In the spirit of shared ownership, BYOD users must understand that the company has a business to run and retains the right to discontinue usage or wipe a device when necessary. Users must also use passwords and encryption. For some individuals or groups, business usage of BYOD devices may be prohibited; Nationwide disallows BYOD use by employees paid hourly and by employees subject to certain regulations.
Management in the era of BYOD
BYOD and MDM go hand in hand. It's a key tool for the enterprise to track, monitor, and manage the mobile experience while securing business data and intellectual property. Gartner estimates that about 60 vendors offer MDM tools, about two dozen of which are viable for the enterprise.
Critical MDM capabilities that companies should look for in a product include support for device diversity, policy enforcement, security and compliance, containerization of applications and content, inventory management, software distribution, administration and reporting, and IT service management. It was these capabilities that Active Interest Media (AIM) sought out as the number of BYOD devices climbed and concerns about corporate exposure grew. (AIM's 400 employees in 12 offices produce magazines, consumer events, websites, and books.)
IT executives must remember that although tools are important, it's critical that the policies they execute make sense for both the company and the user. In other words, if you lock down too much or impose too many limitations, you're guaranteed to get user pushback and workarounds.
Done right, consumerization fosters a new relationship between the employee and IT and the employee and the business -- one that is more equitable and adult. Empowered employees are a business's best friend. A recent Forrester report, "How Consumerization Drives Innovation," concludes that empowerment does in fact drive innovation. These selftaught experts not only know how to use smartphones, tablets, and Web apps like Google Docs and Dropbox, they know what they're good for and how they can help the business. And they're willing to do just that. Furthermore, the research shows empowered employees improve work processes and productivity.