Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives might be more costly than was previously thought, and the extra expenditure is one reason why Asian companies are holding back from embracing the idea of allowing consumer devices into the workplace.
Ben Cavender, associate principal at China Market Research Group (CMR), said companies in the region recognize they may save money on reduced hardware spend when employees use their personal computing devices for work. But they are also increasingly aware those savings might not be enough to cover the cost for supporting multiple device platforms and managing their access to the corporate network in the long run.
One example of additional costs is in data plans. Cavender explained that companies can no longer negotiate corporate or group discounts for devices, services and data plans, and paying for a large number of individual subscription plan is almost always more expensive than a bundled service contract.
The additional IT management and support required for BYOD also mean having to hire more tech professionals or reduced efficiency in attending to internal IT requests, the analyst pointed out.
Companies would often have to fork out more money for additional management tools to secure and ensure compliance of corporate data when workers access the network using their personal devices. By contrast, managing these aspects would be easier if the devices were owned or issued by the company, he added.
As such, cost, together with "very real fears" over data security, information loss and unauthorized access, are causing companies to hold back on implementing BYOD initiatives, Cavender said.
Ian Song, research manager for enterprise mobility at IDC Asia-Pacific, added that while the reluctance to embrace BYOD among Asian companies is understandable, the trend is unavoidable and adoption will continue to rise.
He noted spending money to implement a scalable enterprise mobility project is inevitable and companies need to see it as a strategic long-term investment that will streamline mobile management and improve overall user efficiency.
Many Asian companies, though, are too focused on "hard cost reduction" and are looking for a short-term payoff when sanctioning BYOD, Song stated.
Adopt best practices to minimize costs
That said, BYOD projects do not immediately result in additional IT costs, Song qualified. Managing and supporting employees' devices get costly only if a company attempts to support every new device people bring in beyond the number of devices it was prepared to support.
For example, if a company has been supporting and managing 10 device types when it was issuing company-owned gadgets, it would be able to extend the same support for employees who own any of the 10 pre-approved devices with little additional costs, the IDC analyst explained.
Employees who choose to bring devices outside the pre-approved list will have to face the consequences of being restricted access, and this practice will help set boundaries and standardization within the workplace, he added.
"If 80 percent of BYOD users use the 10 devices corporate has already been supporting, it's okay to restrict the other 20 percent--the ones who use non-standard or unsupported devices--to minimize management expenses," Song said.
With a fixed range of devices, IT departments will be more efficient in developing support protocols and attending to user devices as they come in. Management costs can be lowered further if corporate-issued devices and those brought in by employees are similar, he noted.
Song also suggested smaller companies can engage telcos to help keep BYOD expenses low.
Telcos today are offering more enterprise-specific offerings, such as hosted mobile device management (MDM) and security tools on a subscription basis. This would be especially beneficial for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) since they do not have to buy costly infrastructure and yet have lower management costs for their BYOD initiative, he said.