Why BYOD is not about to take over your office

Why BYOD is not about to take over your office

Summary: Reports about BYOD can give the impression that staff are clamouring to swap their work laptop for a device of their own choosing. Here's why I don't believe that's the case.


By 2016, about two fifths of firms will dump workplace PCs, tablets and phones in favour of letting staff use their own devices in the office, Gartner foretold recently.

I'm not convinced that this, or any other research that trumpets the need for companies to throw out corporate devices, is on the right track.

As as far as I can see, the case hasn't been made that staff want to use just one machine at work and home.

Yes, staff are preparing work documents and spreadsheets on their own laptops and checking emails on their phones. But this behaviour isn't tantamount to them wanting to use their own kit at all times.

When people who practice "BYOD" were questioned by analyst house Ovum about how they use personal devices at work, the majority — 60 percent-plus — said: "I just use this occasionally for work."

Of course, you could argue this bias toward the occasional task is because most don't have the option to work on their own device.

Yet more than half of this same group were also indifferent about the prospect of using the "same phone at home and at work", with 56.2 percent either having no opinion on or disagreeing with the notion.

Just because someone likes to have the option of working on their own device, it doesn't mean that device is all they want to use.

I'm not arguing against companies supporting personal devices in the workplace altogether, there is plenty of evidence that people already use their own machines at work and that employees feel more productive when they are able to access work systems from any device.

But I struggle to see a reason for companies to take the next step and do away with corporate issue kit altogether.

Staff aren't clamouring for such a step, and in many respects the financial cost of such a measure would seem to outweigh the benefit to both the individual and the company.

I wonder if the debate about BYOD has been skewed, with certain researchers and CIOs seeing personal devices in the workplace and jumping to the conclusion the office of tomorrow will run on consumer hardware.

Perhaps that's why so many articles describe BYOD as a shift that's taking place towards consumer devices and away from corporate ones.

I don't see it as a zero-sum game; if we are witnessing a shift, I'd bet it is towards consumer devices being used alongside corporate ones, not instead of.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, BYOD and the Consumerization of IT


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • BYOD is going to happen

    It is just not going to happen on today's infrastructure. Companies will have to rethink the way their applications work and how employees interact with them in order to get BYOD to work. BYOD is not just about the security and company vs private content, it is about a whole new way of developing and using technology in the enterprise. If a company does not change this, BYOD won't work because employees will continue to use it just for email and the odd work related task.
    • Not a chance

      BYOD means you buy it. I will continue to use whatever is provided for me.
  • I would be all for BYOD if

    Employees would not expect the following things:

    1. When it does not work right free support from the company IT staff.
    2. If it needs to be configured, updated or have software installed expect the company IT staff to do it (FOR FREE)
    3. When they get a new phone every few months because they lose it, break it, or upgrade expect the company IT staff to set up their email, transfer their contacts, and reinstall all their apps and settings.
    4. Expect the company to pay for the device
    5. Pitch a fit when you tell them most of the company used software cannot legally be installed on their computer.
    6. Bitch and wine about using their device at work when the company already provides a perfectly good computer or work device.
    7. Expect the company or IT to provide training on how to use their personal device.

    Working as a Systems Admin this is what I see everyday.
    • It's almost as annoying as having to fix executives' gear.

      The top execs in most non-IT firms are invariably as dense as uranium when it comes to computers, and think that their IT support staff should be able to perform miracles that defy the laws of physics and logic, after they trash their company-issued laptop into uselessness. Everyone I know lived in fear of that call from the C-suite residents, and wanted out of the job so badly they could taste it. The most dangerous thing is when you have one of these suits actually think they know what they're talking about, when the last time they were involved in tech was in the punch card era. They can chatter endlessly, while being totally wrong the entire time, about issues they think they have expertise in, because Gartner told them so. Glad I got out of that game quickly.
      • As Dilbert Said:

        to his PHB: turn your laptop upside down and shake it to reboot.

        then to Wally: wonder how long it will take for him to realize it's an Etch a Sketch?

        That one was good enough to make one of the Dilbert books!
    • As someone mainly on the user side

      Why should I expect you to do your job? You want us to bring our own devices and do support on them? Right, have you already ordered your new comfy chairs?
      Why wouldn't I expect my employer to pay for the device, the tools required for the job? If I use my own car or take the company scheme, I get an allowance. Not so for computing devices.
      Why should I buy a device to run specific software, it's not really me deciding on a device then is it, I'm being told by IT what I need and paying for it myself. Okay.

      Basically you're saying you'd support BYOD as long as you don't have to do any work in relation to them. So you're just taking users out of the support framework and what, cutting back your hours, losing staff? You don't seem to have much of an appreciation of users requirements and what they really need in support. Maybe that's why they bitch and moan at you so much!
      Little Old Man
      • bobiroc

        I think what he's trying to get at is this (at least on the supporting BYOD devices): We're being paid to support company devices and BYOD blurs that line in it's current state.

        I'll teach you how to use your company issued Lenovo laptop until I can't talk anymore, because that's my job. When you start mixing in their personal PC into the mix? "IT can you look at my Rosetta Stone? It's not working right." "IT can you help me back up the pictures from my vacation?" "IT, what I'm not allowed to look at indecent websites on my PERSONAL laptop?? It's not my fault I have 15 viruses! Fix it!" "IT I've been torrenting on my laptop and I got a letter that we're being sued into oblivion, fix it!"

        See what I'm getting at? I'm no longer supporting the work functions.

        I personally hate BYOD and as much as I don't want it to come into play I'm sure it'll be here one day, but I'll fight it kicking and screaming. And then trying to say that the company should pay for it? Isn't it a company asset at that point? How is it BYOD at that point?
        • And before anyone says...

          That we should have policies in place to prevent the illicit websites and torrenting. You bet we would, but it was a good example.

          BYOD is an annoying concept from a User and an IT standpoint, you lose uniformity and standardization. I can't wait until we have BYOD for Laptops and someone just HAS to use their Macbook Pro on my Windows/Linux Domain.

          What a fun time that will be trying to make our legacy programs run on that :D
        • That is exactly what I am saying


          I know users think we are being jerks but they do not get that there are so many situations we cannot account for with personal devices. If the company gives a user an allowance or stipend for using a personal device such as a phone, tablet, or computer then that stipend is to pay for the usage of that device in reflection to the amount it is used for work related purposes on average. That stipend also is to cover the costs of support and repair or replacement if necessary. Saying the IT staff should support it is double dipping.
      • Misunderstanding

        There is a misunderstanding here. The issue isn't work; it is the quantity/variety of work that is an issue. There is no staff that is ready for 25 different Android flavors, iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry and then anything else you can think. The support needs just scale up too quickly. And that is just phones…if you want to run a corporate app and Citrix runs differently on iPad vs. Android…. I hope that helps.

        Also, I know it is a requirement here, more than just corporate IT on your phone/tablet/laptop, but a need for the data to be erased/tracked for Audit and lost equipment (yes, your personal tablet would be erased if lost…or would you not report it…that is an issue as well). You want somebody having entrance to your personal data 100% of the time?
      • This is essentially the same thing as having to pay to park in ...

        ... your employer's parking lot. That is the way it is in many places. Giving employees "an allowance" for using a smart phone is one thing. (Though it comes with a caveat! You HAVE TO answer a call from the boss after hours.) Expecting them to buy a tablet or a computer to work for you is quite another.
        M Wagner
    • BYOD

      I think IT dept.s need to get with the BYOD programme. Employees / the business are the customers of IT depts. If they are demanding BYOD and better terms and conditions for using BYOD - yes free help and support - then IT need to find a way of delivering that. If they don't another business will and steal the competitive advantage away from our own business. I am a BYOD user - I love the flexibility and simplicity of it. I am a more productive employee. The Company get great value from me.I hate that it's loaded against me though in terms of cost and IT support, to the point I am considering giving it up for the more costly and less productive Company device.
      • If only it were that simple

        You're right, its going to happen eventually, we need to start adapting for it (as much as I don't like it) and users seem to love it for some reason (personally I'd never do it because I don't want my company on my personal devices but that's a different issue.)

        The challenge is creating a good BYOD policy that allows users some level of freedom of device but allows a standard uniform for IT. Especially when you start thinking about global companies that have to have a standard in place that the entire world can conform too easily. It lets us keep costs down, training, varied staff just there to support one item, etc.

        I do have to ask though. What makes you say you're more productive because you use your own device? How is it different when you use say your personal HP laptop vs the company's Thinkpad or Thinkcentre?

        I'd honestly like to hear it from the user side maybe I'm missing something, because here at our company we only have BYOD on phones/iPad and its limited to email.
      • @Geoffgrace71

        What I hear you saying is work does provide you with a device but you feel that you are less productive on that device. I am curious to why you feel that way. Does the company not provide you with a login to that device, install the software or settings needed to do your job? Or is because you cannot do whatever you want with that device like install your own software, change all sorts of system settings, and basically you don't have full control.

        I am not sure about your company but the demand for BYOD is mostly on the users. They seem to have the need to have some sense of ownership of the device they use and think they should be able to do what they want with it. Sorry but that is not how it is. In a world of security issues, hackers, malware, and unknowns there has to be some sense of control and standardization on company owned devices when it comes to brand and models of the products use and the software and settings they are loaded with. I mean no offense by this but as a general rule users cannot be trusted as it is the user of the device that is the biggest security risk and the organization has to take steps necessary to protect it's own interest as well as their employees from those risks.

        So you basically prove my point that you are choosing to use your device and expecting the company's IT staff to support your choice. If you work provided device is not productive enough then take that up with the company managers and not the IT staff that often have little to no control over stuff like that.
  • Wanting to use your own devices for company purposes is a mental illness.

    What kind of idiot would permit their own personal computing and communications devices to have any involvement with corporate computing, which means sacrificing configuration and control to the almighty corporation? Where I worked, security was utmost in importance, and so in order to be compliant, you had to let the company support staff work over your device until it met spec. Sorry, nobody looks at my computer but myself, period!
    • Re: thetwonkey

      You are being too harsh and abusive in saying those who consider BYOD as having a mental illness and being stupid.

      Please don't insult yourself by putting down anyone who thinks differently than you.
  • Seems to be mainly on ZDNet

    ZDNet is the primary tech blog I read, but all this supposed interest in BYOD I mainly see mentioned only on ZDNet. Small companies simply don't have enforced formal policies and mid-to-large companies aren't going to deal with the headaches of HUNDREDS of different hardware and software configurations and allowing any nitwit who can shell out $300 for a bargain-basement laptop or get a hand-me-down from a friend or relative to access their corporate network.

    ZDNet bloggers who harp on this also forget software audits. I don't remember the auditing entity but I know ZDNet readers know who I'm referring to. All it will take is a handful of horror stories about some disgruntled former employee reporting that employees are loading software onto company computers as well as their own home computer. A few audits and companies getting hit with massive licensing fees or lawsuits for refusing to allow an audit, and companies that did allow BYOD will quickly reverse the policy.
    • Re: Rick_R

      The concerns mentioned in your second paragraph is one of the main objections to BYOD - along with lost/stolen items. But, then, that has always been a corporate problem - even with office-located desktops.

      From the specs of Win 8.1 (and I'm sure the other OSs will follow), corporations will have the ability to set up a separate company user account for the user. The company will have control over what is installed, can perform audits, and even completely delete everything associated with that account. The first few iterations won't be perfect, but they are a step in the right direction. Company policy enforcement will move from individual supervisors (many of whom are guilty of the same offence) to the IT department.
  • Just say NO

    The issues with security and liability far outweigh any other argument. The whole concept of BYOD seems something dreamed up by the media so they've got something to write about.
    • Why carry two phones when you can have one...?

      Where is the logic of a personal and Company phone for one person? Twice the cost, half the productivity??? IT departments - start thinking like business people!!!