BYOD: From optional to mandatory by 2017, says Gartner

Summary:Latest research suggests half of employers will, in just four years' time, require employees to bring their own devices to work. Should BYOD be a requirement over a personal, optional decision?

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) has for some time been gaining traction in the workplace, as not only a way of freeing up IT costs but also liberalizing workers from being virtually chained, clunky, aging machines at their desks.

But latest research from Gartner suggests that by 2017, half of employers may impose a mandatory BYOD policy — requiring staffs to bring their own laptop, tablet and smartphone to work.

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(Credit: Oliver Wales/Flickr)

As an optional policy, workplaces still have an IT fallback option, but many are choosing to bring their own tablets and smartphones to work in order to work more effectively using the technology they feel more comfortable with.

Some interesting tidbits from the research:

  • 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing workplace devices to staff by 2016. (PCs, such as desktops and laptops, are included in the definition of BYOD.)

  • BYOD is most prevalent in midsize and larger enterprises, often generating between $500m-$5bn in revenue per year, with 2,500-5,000 employees on the roster.

  • BRIC nations, such as India, China, and Brazil, will most likely already be using a personal device — typically a "standard mobile phone" — at work.

  • Meanwhile, companies in the U.S. are more likely to allow BYOD than those in Europe (likely due to stronger data protection rules, see below).

  • Around half of all BYOD programs provide a partial reimbursement, while full reimbursement costs "will become rare."

  • Gartner vice president David Willis says companies should "subsidize only the service plan on a smartphone."

But there's a problem within. Those who have yet to adopt a BYOD policy often generally cite one of two good reasons (or both): interoperability and security. 

On two fronts, IT staff need to account for additional budget spending on ensuring that BYOD devices are secure to work on the corporate network. Nobody wants to leave an iPad on the train home from work only to find there's not even a password protecting the dozens of critical business documents from prying eyes. The U.K.'s own privacy and data watchdog recently warned of "laissez faire attitudes" towards data security.

Secondly, interoperability. Not all devices speak to each other. Outsourced cloud services often work well because they generally cut down on IT costs, but because they are cloud-based they are available to work on any device, regardless of platform. 

Gartner notes that IT is becoming more aware of what has typically been going on since "BYOD" was first coined. Staff bring their own devices to work, typically a smartphone, and use it for both work and personal reasons.

But BYOD isn't a trend sitting on its own. With it comes further responsibility in ensuring these two key elements work together to ensure that BYOD employees are able to work effectively and securely without putting customer or business data at risk.

The bottom line: While BYOD is currently optional in many workplaces, there's a whole behind-the-scenes can of worms that goes along with it. You often can't have one without the other. Driving down spending per staff head may be offset by infrastructure changes that are necessary to support such workers.

Topics: Bring Your Own Device, Enterprise Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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