Steer clear of these BYOD boondoggles

Vendors are targeting naive, frightened IT pros with silly notions that will waste your money and time

The carpetbaggers are coming! As most companies have now opened up their environments to mobile devices beyond the BlackBerry -- indeed, the BlackBerry is fast disappearing as the corporate mobile standard -- vendors, consultants, and some media outlets are preying on IT pros not sure how to deal with the heterogeneity of devices and users' insistence that IT not get in their way.

Playing to a knee-jerk desire among some IT organizations to just make it stop, these carpetbaggers are proposing bad ideas for IT to act on -- all of which will help them sell their wares and services. I get that the shift to user-driven endpoint technology is a hard prospect for many in IT, but IT will only damage itself by following these cynical proposals.

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It's better if IT looks to constructively engage in the consumerization reality. That means not reacting in a fear-oriented manner, looking for some way to put the genie back in the bottle or bind it up with technological red tape -- which is what these carpetbaggers typically suggest.

Here are some of the really dumb concerns and ideas you may be pitched -- whether you work in IT or for a business unit. Steer clear of them; if you get hoodwinked by these proposals, you'll look like an idiot. That's an outcome IT in particular should strive hard to avoid, as it could lose the right to partner with the business on user-facing technology.

Expense management is not IT's issue

The two most common nontechnology fears I hear expressed from IT people and targeted by vendors is the cost of BYOD in general, and cellular data plans in particular. A corollary concern is the overhead of managing these expenses.

First, if IT is looking to manage departmental budgets, it's clearly overstaffed and imposing itself way outside of its expertise. Business units and/or a purchasing department are and should be responsible for their own expenses. Cellular service is not a shared infrastructure that IT has to build, then charge back or be accounted for as a general operating expense -- the same goes for endpoint devices like PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

The overstated fear over international roaming costs. Some mobile device management (MDM) vendors love to raise fears about huge charges incurred by employees who don't turn off data roaming before they board an international flight. It'd be great if an MDM tool can alert employees to turn off data roaming when out of the country, but is this really a problem that justifies a massive IT investment? Doubtful. If the business units have to eat these costs, the problem will go away quickly.

Organizations with lots of international travel should already have worked out roaming contracts. Where it's sporadic, the easy solution -- for the employee, not IT -- is to get an unlocked device and purchase a local SIM when abroad.

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