Mobile BYOD strategy reveals if your CIO is good or bad

How the CIO handles a bring-your-own-device effort is a good proxy on whether that executive should lead IT in the emerging empowered-user world

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The trickier issue: The notion of shared ownership
What all of this comes down to is a different view of technology: It says that the device and its service is jointly owned by the company and the employee, not clearly by one or the other. Although iOS and BlackBerry provide the tools to manage company assets separately from employee assets, and there are ways to accomplish some of that in Android, it's the very sharedness that is at the root of a lot of fear over BYOD.

The same Aberdeen research that dispels the security and cost myths about mobile heterogeneity also shows a curious fact: Half of the best-in-class companies don't let employees bring in their own devices. The other half are split between letting them bring in any compliant device and one on a preapproved list. For the rest of the companies surveyed, more than half let employees bring in any device. Thus, those companies best able to manage BYOD are least likely to allow its fullest form.

If you're an old-school CIO, you'll take that fact and use it to show why you should ban most devices -- all while characterizing it as an expansion of what is allowed, of course. But what the data really indicate is that companies that allow a free-for-all are not best in class; they have no visibility into what is accessing their network and data, and they have no or few policies at the network or data level. They've abdicated their responsibility.

The best-in-class companies do in fact support heterogeneity: 74 percent of them support two or more devices, versus 65 percent of all companies and 45 percent of laggards. The problem many of them have is in giving up ownership of the device, often because they believe they need that ownership to enforce the policies. Ironically, a conservative approach to ownership did not translate into a conservative approach to heterogeneity.

Aberdeen's data shows that these best-in-class companies that insist on owning the devices are beginning to change their minds as they gain confidence over their management of device heterogeneity. The surveys show that a higher percentage of the best-in-class companies currently insisting on device ownership are planning to allow some or complete employee ownership than the average companies that currently insist on device ownership.

Borg says this demonstrates a methodical approach to mobile heterogeneity that takes the challenge one step at a time to ensure it works over the long term: "It's a matter of trust and a more cautious approach. The best-in-class companies pilot before they deploy and ensure that the MDM solutions work as advertised with employee-liable [employee-owned] devices. They know that once the horse has left the proverbial barn, there's no turning back."

When all is said and done, a modern CIO will look -- if he or she hasn't already done so -- at the mobile heterogeneity and user choice as powerful benefits for the organization that IT can easily support and even drive. The tools are there, the methods are known, the risks are lower than for inaction or avoidance, and the goodwill that results is strong.

Perhaps even more valuable: Addressing mobile heterogeneity through a policies-based approach is a great way to pilot this postmodern, stewardship-oriented IT philosophy that will be needed for the cloud, social technology, analytics, and all the other technology-augmented business activities that a modern company and its employees rely on.

Rick Pople, global IT practices leader at the consultancy Hackett Group, says most organizations will struggle with this new world. Middle managers are right to be concerned they will end up with a heterogeneous mess -- the whole overview has not been thought through the right way. "That's why they are wrapped in the notion maintaining control over the environment rather than embrace the fact that the global, heterogeneous nature of transactions, platforms, and data allow greater degree of freedom -- in a deliberate way," Pople says.

That is why a CIO's reaction to the BYOD phenomenon is such a litmus test of that CIO's ability to lead today: Mobile is just the most pressing, obvious example of a deeper change coming.

This article, "Mobile BYOD strategy reveals if your CIO is good or bad," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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