Great Debate: Bring your own device

Summary:Is Bring Your Own Device only a great idea until you try to manage it? Ken Hess and Heather Clancy each make their case in this week's debate.

Ken Hess

Ken Hess

Reality

or

Pipe Dream

Heather Clancy

Heather Clancy

Best Argument: Reality

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

It's a smart and easy transition

Ken Hess: Almost everyone owns an advanced phone and a laptop, netbook or tablet, so why not allow employees to use those devices in corporate work environments? Bring your own device is a new strategy being used by or considered by corporate IT departments. It allows employees to use devices with which they're comfortable and at a lower overall expense to the employee's company. It's an intelligent change in the corporate landscape to lower the costs associated with acquiring, deploying and maintaining devices, to reduce the number of required support personnel, and to decrease the possibility of  single vendor lock-in.

The transition from home user device to corporate user device is an easy one through the use of VPNs, corporate-sponsored anti-virus software and agent-based security compliance. User devices and corporate data will remain secure and stable. And, setting up a user's device a simple matter by using "client pull" automated setup scripts.

It's a management nightmare

Heather Clancy: There is one really good reason not to let employees use their own smartphone, notebook or tablet at work: It is a management nightmare.

For starters, there are inherent security and regulatory compliance risks. Even if you mandate certain products or technologies people can bring and use, it will be next to impossible to make sure everyone keeps their machines updated with the proper OS and application patches. Unless you have control. 

Don’t expect to save money, either. Many businesses supporting BYOD expect employees to buy and support devices on their own dime. But infrastructure and security policies need to be rock-solid behind that. This takes investment and new IT management policies. Is your organization ready?

Be honest: Do you want someone telling you what you can and cannot do with your personal technology? BYOD seems like a great idea for productivity, until you try manage it.
 

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mr. Hess, you're captain optimistic. Last question.

    Will we ever get to the point where all enterprises will be bring your own devices? What class of workers will value BYOD the most?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    BYOD

    Eventually, the cost effectiveness of the decision to go BYOD will be too attractive to pass up. It might take some companies several years to catch onto the idea but they all will. I don't think there will be a purposeful class separation for BYOD. I do believe, however, that company IT departments will probably limit the device list to a select few. They might also limit the operating system that can be used on laptops. For example, only laptops equipped with Ubuntu 11.04 or higher, Windows 7 Professional or higher and Mac OS X Lion or higher will be supported. Those restrictions placed on allowed devices might exclude some workers due to the skills required to install the required software or the financial outlay associated with purchasing the software and hiring a third party to perform the necessary changes.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    No way, no how

    I just don't see this happening, unless your organization wants to move completely to a cloud-based model where EVERY bit of data is kept off client devices. There are departments where this would be too challenging from a security standpoint, such as legal departments or human resources. In other instances, the systems will be just too specialized and too expensive for companies to make the case that their employees should pay for them. I'm thinking about technologies such as engineering design workstations or systems being used to manage a manufacturing production line.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Show me the subsidies!

    Will companies offer subsidies for personal gear used for work? I've seen this idea floated a few times, but I'm still waiting for the subsidies on my laptop and smartphone. Hell, here at CBS I'm just waiting for a laptop refresh without Windows 3.1 (half kidding but not really)

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    The check is in the mail.

    There are companies that do this already and more will join the fray as this trend continues. Until the early adopters report on their successes with the idea, expect uptake to lag a bit for the "wait and see" majority. Companies who want to lower costs will offer subsidies to users to choose their own devices. They'll find that it's less expensive to offer a one-time subsidy than to take on the ongoing responsibility and continuous expense of maintaining those systems. Yours might not have arrived at the decision to do so yet but it will. But, if your a freelancer, don't expect any subsidy. From an IRS perspective, you have to supply your own tools to be considered a contract employee. On a related note, I have the feeling that BYOD is also the first step in the trend to dump employees in favor of contract labor.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Huh, you want me to pay taxes on a machine I use for work?

    This becomes an issue of tax law. Is that money that you are giving me to buy my notebook or smartphone or tablet going to be considered income and will I have to pay taxes on it? I have a hard time believing employees will go for this scenario, especially after several years of a really rough economy in which many raises were deferred and personal incomes have shrunk. And if the company is still paying for these systems, I fail to see the point of why it should allow employees to own them in the first place.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    And how about those iPads and tablets

    Laptops and smartphones are one thing. How much more complexity will tablets bring to the BYOD movement?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    The tablet X factor

    For some reason, IT departments fear the tablet. There's no reason for this fear. As I stated earlier, mobile devices will no doubt rely on a) The Cloud for data storage and b) Mobile hypervisors for security partitioning. Both of those remove any complexity forged in the minds of IT types. Tablets bring true mobility to the user and to the enterprise. If you really think about it, tablets remove much of the complexity.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Tablets = Client virtualization

    The BYOD argument got a lot louder when consumer tablets emerged, because of the ease-of-use features we have already mentioned and the more reasonable screen size for displaying data. Who wants to squint at a smartphone all day when trying to access a Web application? The problem is in order to use tablets securely in a business setting -- healthcare is prime example -- you need to apply client virtualization software. Ironically, that circumvents the interface that interested BYOD users in the first place.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What's the role for mobile data management here?

    There are a bevy of vendors arguing that you forget about the device and focus on the data that goes on them. Agree, disagree? Where's the personal/work line?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Cloud with a chance of mobility

    I agree. But, a lot of people still don't trust the Cloud and if you ignore the device and focus on the data, that has to mean Cloud. If you don't save any data on the device, then security becomes a Cloud issue. This was once the dream of device independent thinkers and spawned things like Chromium--the "do everything in a browser" concept OS. Device independence is a good thing and it really shouldn't matter how you get there. If you don't care which device someone uses, there is no personal/work line to be drawn because no data stays on the device.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Mobile device management is mandatory

    The only way to make BYOD work is to have a strong mobile device management strategy, which means your organization needs to invest in one. (Read, spend money.) Your organization will need to close manage application licenses, patch distribution and access control parameters. And, for that matter, wireless communications expenses. This is a really relevant and exciting new area of software. As for the work/personal line, I think the easiest way to get around that is by not allowing any corporate data to be stored locally. That would help keep the "lives" separate.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Bring your own laptop

    Do you anticipate that the bring your own movement will be as strong for laptops? Why or why not?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Got Lap?

    A lot of people assume that the BYOD computing platform will be focused on tablets or smart phones but I expect that the laptop movement to be very strong for years to come. New laptop computers are inexpensive, lightweight and powerful. It's a versatile platform. And, for laptops, there are fewer choices than for phones. Basically you have Linux, Windows and Apple in that space. Laptops also have several form factors from which to choose as well. The range goes from netbooks to devices like the Macbook Air to the Macbook Pro and standard PC-based laptops. You can buy whatever computing power you require from low-end, Atom-based netbooks to multi-core, gaming-grade systems. There's something for every requirement and budget all packaged into a carry-around form factor.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    No way will it be as strong for notebooks

    For starters, it is a matter of expense. If I am personally paying $2,000 to $3,000 for a seriously sweet notebook, I'm not going to want to let someone tell me how I can use it. And, let's be serious, in order for me to use that notebook for business purposes, I will need to let someone tell me how I can or cannot use it.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Windows?

    So you both think Windows will get traction in the BYOD and enterprise world. Based on what exactly? Can Microsoft be a consumerization player?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Enterprises do Windows

    Microsoft is built for consumerization. They aren't as clever as Apple in that realm but so many enterprises are Microsoft-heavy and that is a hard hand to beat. Currently, most companies would rather deal with Microsoft technology because they feel that it's reliable, compatible and familiar. Plus it puts all devices into a single platform bag that corporate execs are comfortable with.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Yes, Windows

    People use what they are comfortable using. I am not a Windows fan, because I am an Apple fan-girl. But I am realistic. If I can pick up something and use it quickly and it fits with my existing stuff, I am more inclined to use it. If my kids are using Windows in school, I'm going to use it. Once you bring the "work" factor into the choice of a consumer device, you cannot discount Windows.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Platform survivor time

    On the mobile front, enterprises are supporting three smartphone platforms---BlackBerry, iOS and Android. Will there be a new entrant and what platform is most likely to be voted off enterprise island?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    So long, Blackberry and thanks for all the outages.

    The significant player missing from the list is Windows Mobile. Windows-based phones have the advantage of built-in compatibility with Microsoft-only shops. They have familiar Windows applications (Internet Explorer, Mobile Office, Outlook) and historic corporate buy-in. Microsoft has done well in the corporate space and I expect that trend to continue. There won't be any new entrants into the field--there's just no room for another platform. There are too many options right now and the one that is mostly likely to disappear is Blackberry. The Blackberry just won't make the cut in the future. It's really the "odd man out" and if you add in the outages, it's a fading player. Companies will drop support for it in favor of the more user-friendly and ubiquitous iOS. Windows Mobile is likely to take a distant second with Android falling to a geek-only third.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    You can't discount Windows mobile platforms

    People will bring their own Windows mobile devices because of the comfort and compatibility factor. In any case, no one will be voted off the island in BYOD, because you will always have someone who wants that random platform or who doesn't want to give up a legacy device. The only way someone will be voted off is if IT decides a device isn't appropriate. In which case, someone will be unhappy. BlackBerry is on the edge, which is ironic because it has the most inherent enterprise security built in. At least in theory.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The security issue

    Security is allegedly a big issue for the bring your own device to work. Is security a real concern or just a red herring?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    A Crimson Herring

    Security is a great excuse for "jailing" users into a particular set of circumstances that include accepted operating systems and devices. It's the one buzzword that's used because it has no defense. If a C-level executive states that the company uses Brand X due to security, everyone walks away disappointed but with the assumption that the executive's minions have done due diligence in making the decision. Operating system and device security are rarely the real issue in the decision-making process. If it were, the computing landscape would look much different than it currently does. Plus there are new advances in mobile hypervisor technology that will allow you to have a corporate profile and a personal profile on your tablet or phone. The same could be done for laptop-type computers too.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Not a red herring

    You need security regardless of who owns the device, period. But who is responsible for making sure security is there under BYOD? Unless you specify otherwise, it will be your IT organization. I have discussed this issue with healthcare IT professionals. Many doctors are intrigued by consumer tablets, because it lets them be available to patients. But federal laws dictate very specifically how that data is accessed. Some healthcare organizations have gotten around this by making sure tablets use virtual client software to ensure data isn't downloaded to the device. Others have been so worried about this issue, and with ongoing management implications, that they have bought the devices themselves to give to their doctors. Mobile malware and antivirus software packages exist, but they haven't been widely used. If you allow people to bring their own mobile device, that needs to change.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What about the cool factor?

    I saw a study today arguing that employees that bring their own devices are happier and more productive. BYOD may also put the IT department in a positive light. Does that count for anything? Why or why not?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    BYOD = COOL

    I think that in the beginning of the process, it will. After the honeymoon period, productivity will go back to normal. But, a productivity boost isn't really a good reason to do BYOD. It's a tertiary one at best. You'd need a better incentive than using your own device to boost productivity long term. I do believe that having your own device makes you happier. And, employee satisfaction counts for a lot. People who are happy are more productive and less likely to cause security breaches or to become disloyal. And, anything that an IT department does to unchain its users will put it in a positive light. IT types have restricted users too much in the past.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Choice, not ownership, is the answer

    I do agree that people who have had a choice in picking the device they are using will be more happy using that device. They will be more comfortable with the features. It will "fit" them better. If you told me that I had to use a Windows system or give up my iPhone for an Android, I would tear my hair out for weeks trying to get used to the interface. There is a very real advantage to watching the devices that employees want to use -- smartphones, tablets, etc. -- and then figuring out how to make those devices fit in the work setting. IT gets exposed to features and applications they might not have considered. I do think IT looks more "human" if they let people choose the devices they use. The ownership factor is the sticking point. Once IT has to step in to control someone's personal device, that is problematic.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    What are the hurdles and gotchas to bring your own device?

    And how do we overcome hurdles?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Jumping the hurdles

    There are so many devices and operating systems available from which to choose. However, the user should be held responsible for maintaining compatibility with company standards. The employer will no doubt have to draft a set of requirements for user-owned devices for use within corporate walls. User devices will have to enable the employee to do his job without restriction. Alternatively, companies might have to adopt new standards to accomodate the more popular devices such as those from Apple. Companies that have historically had Windows-only environment, will have to explore a broader range of possibilities.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Support is the hurdle, and management is the answer

    For me, the big hurdle is the support implications. How do you keep applications updated? Who owns the software applications that are distributed to that mobile device? How do you wipe the device of corporate data when a person leaves? How do you ensure that the technology is destroyed from a data security and environmental perspective at the end of life? How much can this person use the device for personal purposes? What percentage of the hard drive can be devoted to personal data? How do you partition e-mail or social media activity? Another hurdle is software license management. It is one thing to own the hardware, but how will the company keep an inventory of the applications on those devices. You might need to consider the concept of building some sort of app store within your organization to manage these issues. There is also a human resources gotcha that you need to think about: are you going to create a class system of haves and have nots? Seriously, is your organization going to let everyone bring their own technology, when some roles don't necessarily call for it? The only way around this is really close management.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

  • Great Debate Moderator

    BYOD is hot hot hot

    We're coming to you from the Gartner Symposium in Orlando and everyone is talking about BYOD. No one knows what to do about it but still. Forrester Research figures that the next 12 to 18 months will bring a sea change in client computing strategies. Consumerization will be front and center. What are the benefits to bring your own device as a policy?

    Posted by Lawrence Dignan

    Yes, BYOD is hot hot hot

    The cost benefits are obvious. Users can purchase the device that fits their working style and budget without the corporate "beat to fit, paint to match" standard. Often a company-wide device mandate doesn't account for individual differences. BYOD also forces the user to care for their devices. Corporate-owned devices typically experience abuse and neglect that individually-owned devices don't. The cost savings for replacement, maintenance and repair will be significant. So, the primary benefit is cost savings for the company. For the employee, the benefit is having a single device that works for personal use as well as for the employer. It's really the best of both worlds for everyone.

    Ken Hess

    I am for Reality

    Faster upgrade cycles, more engaged users

    I think you'll see a redefinition of the whole concept of upgrade cycles. Forget, three to five years. Smartphones are turned over every two years, because of carrier contracts. That means employees will have new features more quickly. Think about the evolution of Skype. It started out as a consumer service, but small businesses quickly figured out it was a way to save money. I don't suggest that employees shouldn't have a say in what device they should use for work purposes. If they did have a say, they would probably use the devices more. Companies need to be much more creative and mobile than they are, but they should stop short of letting employees own those devices. That's where things get very gray, which means it will become a management nightmare. And that's why 69 percent of IT leaders in a recent study don't allow employees to buy their own equipment for work and only 24 percent do.

    Heather Clancy

    I am for Pipe Dream

Closing Statements

BYOD is an inevitable reality

Ken Hess

Companies must decrease overhead costs without sacrificing product and service quality. There's a tremendous cost layout made for end user devices, for software, and for support. One significant way to lower costs is to allow employees to bring their own devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets) to work and use them.

Mobile provisioning and management technologies which include carrier-supported mobile hypervisors will be as disruptive to devices as VMWare has been to the data center. Once the technologies become widely available, the deployments will follow because at the end of the day, enterprises are cheap and any cost-saving technology is going to be embraced. In fact, VMware and Verizon announced yesterday that they're teaming up on mobile virtualization technology to solve this problem for enterprises.

Win, lose or draw on the debate, BYOD is an inevitable reality.

Choose - not bring - your own device

Heather Clancy

Businesses should absolutely realize productivity benefits by outfitting their employees with the latest mobile technologies, including smartphones, tablets and notebooks. It makes sense for workers to have a say in selecting those products, because then they are more likely to use them.

Plus, your IT team might be turned on to features and applications that it might not otherwise have considered as a “business” application. But your organization is asking for a support and management nightmare, if it chooses to support every mobile technology owned by workers.

Security is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll need to define policies for technical support, for software patch updates, for application distribution – pretty much everything your team is already responsible for doing. So, honestly, what is the
point of ceding ownership?

Rather than “bring your own device,” it should be “choose your own device.” That way, your IT organization will still have control.

Winner: Ken Hess

Lawrence Dignan

While Heather highlighted all the issues with bring your own device schemes, Ken had technologies that could cure those ills. The argument was very close, but in the end I went with Ken. BYOD will happen and it's quite possible that IT will have no choice but to play along.

Doc's final thoughtsIN PARTNERSHIP WITH Ricoh

Doc

Doc strongly agrees with Ken on this one. My employer now expects me to be available 24/7 and connected to my work no matter where I go or where I am. In exchange for that sort of servitude, I should at least get to pick my communications device of choice. The lines between home and work are extremely blurred these days, and it isn’t realistic to expect employees to be tethered to two separate devices. Sorry Heather, but Doc thinks you’ve overblown the security and other IT management issues – and by the way, how’s that Blackberry service working for you?

It’s true that BYOD has created some headaches for IT managers, but those are likely to be temporary. Where there is a need for enterprise software and hardware management, there is someone working on a solution. Doc is already aware of several enterprise-grade applications to help organizations securely manage a diverse mobile infrastructure. Plus, Doc is willing to bet that employees are more productive when they’re using a device of their choice, one that they are comfortable with and know how to use effectively. And today, productivity is the name of the game—we’re all doing three people’s jobs.

And let’s face it, does it really make sense for companies to standardize around a single platform anymore? That’s a recipe for disaster, as the recent Blackberry outages have shown. We strive for diversity in the workplace -- technology shouldn’t be any different. Mobile management has become part of the IT infrastructure, and it’s just something IT professionals are going to have to deal with. If you get the right enterprise tools then BYOD doesn’t have to be so scary. And by the way, Doc will give up his iPhone when my employer pries it from my cold, dead fingers. And I’m not going to carry two smartphones with me like so many poor saps have to do today. That’s absurd.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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