BYOD a waste of money?

Many organisations are considering support for BYOD, but they shouldn't expect to see any cost savings out of it, according to IDC and Dematic.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

The idea that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies can bring savings to an organisation is a misconception. BYOD can, in fact, cost more than not doing so, according to IDC mobility analyst Tim Dillon and Dematic CIO Allan Davies.

Both were panellists at RIM's Australian BlackBerry Mobile Fusion launch in Sydney.

BYOD has been a trend for some time, thanks to the consumerisation of IT and the proliferation of smartphones, as well as tablets. Increasingly, workers want to bring their own personal computing devices into their work environment.

ZDNet Australia recently asked its CIO jury participants about BYOD and what their stance was, in terms of their own company. All of them have had some form of support for the trend.

While, theoretically, BYOD can save money for companies since workers are forking out from their own pockets for devices, these cost savings have yet to be proven, according to Dillon.

"We are in early days, in terms of strong business cases for BYOD," he said. "I wouldn't say any organisations that go into it will save costs — they will not."

"Cost for those organisations is about 7 to 10 per cent above what they had before."

For one, corporations have to factor in associated costs with rolling out mobile device management (MDM) tools and securing personal devices so sensitive data will not be lost. For companies that also procure voice and data plans for employees, they also lose their economy of scale advantage when negotiating deals with telco providers.

"Anybody that is saying 'I'm going to save a lot of money on BYOD' might initially, but then they have to expect to pay for it later on, and we're seeing that around the region," Dillon said.

For the past 18 years, Davies has been the Australian CIO of Dematic, a warehouse and logistics company with operations worldwide. He has been forced to enable BYOD, due to executives' demand, not because of demand from workers. However, he cannot see any tangible benefits from BYOD.

In 2008, he rolled out a BYO-PC policy, which yielded no cost savings due to low uptake.

One of his problems with BYOD is the cost of data roaming on those devices, since Dematic issues employees work SIM cards.

"You can get great plans from carriers, but the minute that device steps outside this country, the roaming costs will kill you," Davies said. "We do have a BlackBerry fleet with [data] compression, and we get back some cost. But somebody travelling with a non-BlackBerry tablet device — we have seen huge costs."

Another issue for Davies is the headaches it can cause for IT departments, including the inability to repair broken personal devices.

"We are starting to proliferate devices that IT can't repair, support or swap out. And if you are going to swap out, you might have 900 of these things, and you want to keep a pool of them," he said. "Then you bring in that additional effort into your IT department, and I can't see where money can be saved."

Davies recognises that BYOD can bring productivity efficiencies, but that is not something his company measures or considers important.

"We can only measure tangible efficiencies," he said. "If I'm making my field service people an hour more productive per day, well, what do they do with that hour? How does that turn into extra revenue for the business?"

While there is a lot of talk that BYOD can, in fact, deliver productivity gains, Dillon is not convinced it is an integral part of that gain.

He agrees BYOD means people can work on the go, such as when on a plane, but said that it is something that can also be done with company issued devices.

"That's where I think IT has probably missed the boat," he said. "We can create a flexible mobile architecture, that enables us to do everything we have to do better than what we are doing now with a corporate architecture.

"[Organisations] can let people choose their own device [from a selection]... it doesn't have to be BYOD."

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