It's time to get over the BYOD obsession

IT's New Year's resolution should be about enablement, not fighting yesterday's wars

You know a trend is over when everyone is trying to milk it with the same old clichés or trying to use it for all sorts of other purposes. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon joins that group. BYOD is yesterday's trend, and the pathetic attempts to use the "BYO" part for everything from apps to networks just shows how the idea has jumped the shark. BYOD was a cute spin off BYOB (bring your own bottle, as in alcohol for a party or licenseless restaurant), but BYOx is simply getting lame.

Don't get me wrong: BYOD the phenomenon is alive and well. But BYOD the serious policy worry or marketing ploy is done for.

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BYOD started because IT wouldn't listen to employees who first saw value in the new type of smartphone introduced by the iPhone, then later saw value in the new type of tablet introduced by the iPad. IT still wanted to restrict users to messaging devices like the BlackBerry and laptops. IT both missed and resisted the modern mobile phenomenon, so users struck out on their own.

But that was 2010. In 2011 and 2012, as IT had to reconcile what was happening with its head-in-sand policies, organizations had to figure out what to do with mobile devices, especially those owned by employees who were unwilling to be imprisoned in an electronic straitjacket for the privilege of working more effectively. Apple led the charge in making mobile devices IT-manageable, followed (with less vigor) by Google and Microsoft. Dozens of mobile management vendors appeared, providing a range of management tools to cover everything from a light touch to a prettier straitjacket.

In 2013, it became clear to thoughtful IT managers that it didn't matter whether a device was BYO or not -- the real issue is managing the information access and flow on devices that employees use, whether they are Windows PCs, Macs, cloud services, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, or game consoles.

The "BYO" part is simply an accounting and/or legal issue for many companies, one for which there are known models. A bad model, by the way, is forced BYOD, which appeals to cheapskate CEOs but has huge hidden costs.

Strategically, BYOD provides an opportunity for many to have staff pay for equipment that is deemed of marginal corporate value, with the company picking up a fraction of the cost (usually via a fixed reimbursement for data access, plus the behind-the-scenes management cost) that reflects the partial corporate value. It should come as no surprise that companies realized mobile could be a big advantage, then actively started buying those devices and issuing them -- along with services and apps -- to the appropriate employees to be sure to get their value.

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