Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD -- it's certainly a pet topic here at ZDNet, because we believe (and have for many years) that it's inevitable.
I'm typing this right now on my personal laptop because I prefer it. My work-issued one is a stone's throw away.
Dan Dearing knows this all too well. As vice president of marketing for Enterproid, he's trying to show IT departments that they can indeed thread the needle: keep IT departments equipped to deal with the worst, and keep employees happy by letting them use their own devices in the office.
Is it an ideal, a golden fleece to chase? Or a reality that's within reach? (Or perhaps somewhere in between?) We sat down to talk with him and get a lay of the BYOD landscape in 2012.
ZDNet: BYOD: A lot of companies are trying to solve this. Why enter a crowded market? What makes you different?
DD: Our founders are IT guys that came out of Morgan Stanley. When they started looking at solving BYOD for primary stakeholders like IT guys, they found a little bit of angst on the IT side, because they want to continue to fulfill their charter. It's a very foreign thing to allow corporate data to reside on a personal device and not have control of it.
The other stakeholders are the employees themselves. You can't be successful as a company if you don't give your employees the tools they need. A new concern that people aren't grappling with yet is employee privacy.
Our founders determined that there wasn't technology out there that concerned both stakeholders; it was only IT-centric. With our Divide platform, the device itself can be separated into two virtual environments: a work side and a personal side, much like humans are. We do things at home that we don't do in the workplace.
We typically refer to it as a "dual-persona client." For the work persona, IT has the capability to lock down that portion of the device, virtually. But at the end of the day, the user has control of the device on a device basis -- important too, because they don't fully understand what's at risk.
ZD: Is IT really willing to cede that ground?
DD: IT wants all of its tools, but it just won't have them across the entire device. It's within a virtual container. That helps the employee -- when the employee wants to take a photo, he doesn't have to use a PIN to unlock it. But he does when he's doing work things.
People don't realize that there's a price [to IT-centric solutions] -- IT can wipe your device without permission, even by accident. Many of today's mobile device management tools were built at a time when IT would give you your device.
ZD: Work and personal often blend together. How do you ensure that I don't accidentally let the buckets spill over in terms of how I use it?
DD: It's been architected in such a way that you can't do that. There's no crossover between the container and your personal.
IT can't always prevent you from doing something, but this gives IT oversight.
ZD: Sounds great. But why am I still using a company-issued BlackBerry? What hurdles do you face -- or, in other words, why isn't this already everywhere?
DD: A lot of IT organizations recently became comfortable for the first time with a multiple-device approach -- a choice beyond BlackBerry. Now, there's the BlackBerry OS that they know and love and the iOS that they've grown to love.
Organizations are starting to look at mobility as a way to change the game from a competitive standpoint. A lot of organizations are looking at being able to give the employee the flexibility and convenience of using a personal device at work and be more productive. More access to information, basically.
This year, they're really figuring out how practical it is and which policies to put in place. 2012 is the transition year where companies will start moving toward BYOD. We've seen companies restart it -- they tried to do it, but ran into issues because employees rejected the user experience.
It's finding that balance between what the employee wants and what IT needs to do.
Our product was in beta up into October of last year. This week, we just activated our 30,000th activation. We're also going to market through channels like AT&T.
We had the same discussion three years ago, but it was only around the iPhone. There are other challenges around Android, and they need to overcome those challenges. And that's been another stumbling block -- you really can't be prescriptive in terms of what the user needs for work. Otherwise your initiative will fail.
Now IT has to worry whether Android is enterprise-ready. Does it meet the same standards that iOS has evolved to meet, and BlackBerry always had? Those two are simple because there's one handset manufacturer. The notion of fragmentation is a huge headache for IT. They just want a consistent way to secure and manage that device. That's one of the chief things we try to solve.
A lot of IT shops, the first mistake they make is letting employees use their personal device for work but not taking calls for support. That's a recipe for failure -- they're going to call you if they can't get e-mail for work. If the phone breaks, they still have to go to the carrier. But if that person can't get access to a service IT provides, they are still going to call the HelpDesk. Or they forgot his password, for example.
We've looked at off-loading a bit of that through a self-service portal, but IT still has to support the user. The reason you're doing BYOD is to make the employee as productive as possible. If a person can't get access to information…
ZD: Finally, what's the primary driver of BYOD that you're seeing? Productivity? Cost-savings? Confronting the inevitable?
DD: There isn't necessarily one single thing. Some are looking at it from a strategic standpoint. About 20 percent of the workforce used to be mobile. Now they're looking at doing that for a wider set of employees. Apps on a tablet changed that. For a lot of guys, all these things come home to roost.