Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: BYOD and the Consumerization of IT

Why BYOD is not about to take over your office

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.

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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.