BYOD’s Still in its Infancy, Despite the Numbers

Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

Mobile device adoption is rapid. In fact, Emarketer recently published a statistic in March that said 90 million Americans will use tablets in 2014.  With the rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, many employees are bringing their own devices to work, regardless of IT policies.

In March, I interviewed many enterprise IT executives about their plans to support bringing your own device (BYOD) initiatives.  Lopez Research, like many other firms, had already surveyed firms about this topic before. In fact, over 43% of the companies I interviewed in our last survey were planning to support mobile devices.

The 451 Group found 71% of businesses asked were allowing personal devices to be used for work.  Another survey conducted by Symantec say that 91 percent of employees surveyed said their employers allow them to use their work devices for personal use, but only 51 percent of those said their employer has communicated policies or best practices to them regarding security.

I’ve grown excited as the percentage of IT leaders that say they’ll support BYOD has grown from single digits to upwards of 50% in some surveys.  But in truth, most analysts have misreported what is going on with BYOD because we didn’t ask the question properly.  Lopez Research (and others) should’ve asked, “What, if anything, are you allowing employee’s to access on their personal devices?

In most cases, businesses only let employees access email and calendaring on personal devices.  While this is a great first step, the world of enterprise mobility is about more than email and calendar access.  If BYOD is just email, we haven’t come very far from the days of the Blackberry.

Real enterprise mobility strategies are about making business processes and applications portable to numerous devices.  But the reality of where we are  today is that many of the most advanced and useful mobile solutions we have are in fact paper to glass replacements for slide decks and price books.  These may or may not be accessible for BYOD employees. Also, we are just starting to see firms embrace business to employee mobile app development, regardless of BYOD or corporate liable device use.

If you are a business embarking on the BYOD challenge, there are several items you should consider and several questions that you should answer before you get started.  First and foremost, you should be thinking about more than email. If you are going to go through the effort to support email, what other apps make sense for a broad cross-section of your employees? For example, expense report management and customer relationship management may be applicable to a wide range of your employees.

Second, what is your security strategy for allowing your users to access email and then other apps?  If you don’t think of a portfolio of apps you may pick a solution that is geared largely to email management instead of mobile application management. Many firms that are doing BYOD are enabling corporate access via a mobile VPN? If so, what does that experience look like? Does it feel seamless or clunky?

I’ve seen VPN implemented well and poorly.  If you decide to use VPN access, you must make the log-in appear seamless to the end user. If they have to type in lots of digits, you’re service is dead.  Also, are you offering BYOD on any platform or just on “iDevices” (e.g. iPad, iPhone, iPod).  Many firms say they do BYOD but only for certain operating systems and device models.

Third, what is your plan for accessing legacy application data on a mobile device?  Do you really think desktop virtualization on an iPad is the experience your users want?  No, what they want is an app that has been designed to work the way consumer apps do.  Employees want two clicks to data.  Employees want to swipe and pinch and in some cases navigate via voice.  These features require you to reengineer apps to work on mobile devices.

Upon reviewing the security and management challenges with supporting mobile devices – even just for corporate-owned devices – it’s no surprise that IT managers have been cautious.  Furthermore, application development is no small task when you still have at least four rapidly evolving mobile operating systems to contend with.

It’s clear to me now that it was too early for us to claim victory on BYOD.  We’ve been discussing mobility for years –and in some cases deploying rugged handheld devices for years — but we are at the beginning of the changes that mobile will bring in software and processes.

Maribel Lopez CEO Lopez Research About Maribel