BYOD: You ain't seen nothing yet

Although 2011 was the year that user-driven mobile device usage became the norm, its fallout -- and opportunities -- are just starting

Some IT trends move fast -- way fast. BYOD, the "bring your own device" phenomenon that raised its head in late 2009, is one of them. Like Internet and email, it caught on with users faster than IT and corporate risk management expected. In 2010, businesses were asking the question "Who should own your smartphones?" Today, that question is moot -- more than half of companies let employees use their own smartphones at work, along with tablets. It's amazing how quickly BYOD became mainstream -- it took about 18 months.

Many companies that have accepted the BYOD phenomenon are taking the next step, shifting from a passive acceptance spurred on by employees and executives who would use iPhones, iPads, and Androids anyhow to active exploitation of BYOD to increase productivity and reduce mobile telecom costs. In other words, businesses are learning that not only are mobile-equipped information workers a great way to increase productivity and ROI but that employees will foot much or all of the bill for the privilege.

[ Learn about consumerization of IT in person March 4-6, 2012, at IDG's CITE conference in San Francisco. | See Galen Gruman's presentation on the real force behind the consumerization of IT. | Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. ]

Thank you, Apple, for the freedom to choose
Most of the BYOD phenomenon was driven by the iPhone, which is fast becoming the new corporate-standard smartphone, as BlackBerry corporate sales have now fallen behind iPhone corporate sales. But Android devices are entering the fray, posing a much more complex management and security challenge than did the iPhone.

The iPad introduced its own wrinkle to the BYOD equation. Where businesses resisted the iPhone or simply weren't sure of its value, they see huge value in the iPad. This is one "consumer" device that both employees and employers love and see strong benefit from, which is why 96 percent of businesses have at least one in use, says Aberdeen Group, and 96 percent of all tablet activations among its customers are for iPads, says Good Technology. SAP, for example, has 12,500 iPads in use across a wide range of business groups, and iPads are popular in all sorts of customer-facing businesses, from insurance sales to energy inspection, from health care to kiosks. Ironically, IT is often in the lead when it comes to deploying tablets.

Because the iPad uses the same operating system as the iPhone, proactive adoption of the iPad also opened doors closed to the iPhone. As far as management tools are concerned, they are the same thing, and supporting one de facto means supporting the other. (The same is not true for Android devices, which vary widely in security and management capabilities.)

The BYOD carpetbaggers are coming
Despite this BYOD acceptance and even encouragement in 2011, as well as the residual fears about non-BlackBerry mobile devices still muttered in some IT quarters, corporate management of mobile devices has a long way to go. Most companies don't yet use mobile device management (MDM) tools, notes Larry Dunn, vice president of global IT outsourcing at Unisys. Consultancies like Unisys and the dozens of MDM vendors are near-giddy at the prospect of the increase in consulting and tools business as more and more businesses go the MDM route, which is expected to accelerate in 2012.

In fact, the number of consultancies -- from the big names to "who are these people?" firms -- and tech vendors that have recently discovered BYOD is huge. Given that this phenomenon has had a good 18 months of CIO and media attention, I'd stay far away from anyone who's just discovered the conditions. They may claim they were monitoring the market until IT was ready for proactive BYOD, but I bet most are carpetbaggers who have no real experience or insight, and will simply sell you the same tired security and management products and services they always have. (I'm talking to you, Symantec and McAfee.) Those who truly did bide their time had better have something superior than those who've been in the market for a while.

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