While there has been a lot of discussion on the Bring Your Own Device trend, it’s still relatively early to assess the actual impact BYOD is having on organisations. While the concept of Bring Your Own Device is based on individuals having the freedom to use their computing device of choice – the business and IT ramifications are much broader. From a business perspective, the impact of consumer technology on business process has never been greater. Leaders and laggards will be defined by how well each incorporates the use of consumer technologies to transform internal and external communications, supply chains, talent sourcing and retention, innovation and product development. From an IT perspective, it’s no longer enough just to keep up - IT is being asked to lead.
IT visionaries are not only those who understand technology trends but those who are successful in using them to gain competitive advantage. In the area of BYOD, this means more than keeping track of the latest mobile devices to hit the market. It means integrating devices, applications, and users in a way that allows an improvement in existing processes. To date, the majority of realised benefits from BYOD come in the area of cost savings. But increasingly, we are seeing savvy organisations enable new applications or ways of working that were previously not possible.
The promise of cost savings has been enough to lure many organisations into embracing BYOD; especially in times of shrinking IT budgets. Firstly, the BYOD phenomenon is shaking up the winners and losers in the device landscape. The Windows-Intel dominance that has ruled the end user computing market for the past 30 years is in rapid decline. In fact, Apple iOS and Google Android now account for approximately 50% of all operating systems shipped for end user computing devices. The traditional view of the desktop has been changed forever and IT must now reassess how budgets – previously spent on Windows-Intel devices – can be reallocated.
A recent Aruba Networks survey, BYOD in Europe, Middle East and Africa: An Overview of Adoption, Challenges and Trends surveyed 773 companies to find that while 92% of companies still purchase laptops for employees, only 70% purchase smartphones and an even lower 51% purchase any kind of tablet device. This data illustrates two things – firstly not every organisation has completely warmed up to BYOD (although 69% of organisations in EMEA already allow some form of BYOD today). Secondly, and perhaps more important, is the fact that organisations are shifting the cost liability for mobile devices from the business to the individual. IT is recognising that end users are willing to pay for the convenience of using their own device. In general, corporations still offer employees the option of having a corporate issued laptop. However, companies can save money by allowing employees to “opt out” of the corporate issued devices to bring their own.
The BYOD trend is also driving cost savings in the area of infrastructure investment. Some investment in building a robust wireless network is required. The Aruba Networks BYOD survey found that 35% of organisations in EMEA expect to improve coverage and capacity of their wireless network to support BYOD initiatives. Furthermore, 53% of organisations indicated they anticipate an increase in wireless investment in the coming year. However, these incremental investments pale relative to the savings that organisations can realise when evolving their network design from a legacy switched data network to a mobility-centric architecture.
More specifically, as users shift their device preferences from desktops, laptops and desk phones – all typically connected to the network via an Ethernet cable – towards smartphones and tablets – which don’t even have the possibility of connecting to Ethernet – the need for investment in wired technologies decreases dramatically. Aruba Networks has seen examples of companies saving up to 50% of their network expenditure based on a reduction in Ethernet switch ports. These savings can be used to augment wireless coverage, but also to contribute to other higher priority projects.
Still, while cost savings are important, the real value of a comprehensive BYOD strategy lies in the transformation of business process. Some early examples of interesting use cases for BYOD are emerging as organisations find their way.
One example of how organisations are benefiting from BYOD is in how employees communicate and collaborate. Tablet devices like the iPad or the Galaxy make the integration of voice, video and data easy. These devices blur the lines of traditional communications where video, voice and data were once carried over separate networks to distinct endpoints. There are many examples of CEOs providing iPads to their management teams as a way to improve communications using applications like Apple FaceTime for high quality video conferencing. Imagine the administrative assistant armed with an iPad and a direct FaceTime link to the CEO approaching any other employee in the building, allowing the CEO to have an ad hoc face-to-face meeting. This type of spontaneous, yet high quality, communications was previously cost prohibitive or simply not possible.
The shift from IT-provisioned to user-supplied is not limited to mobile devices. The promise of BYOD extends into the application arena as well. With the advent of new smartphones and tablets comes the arrival of the applications (app) store. This, perhaps more than mobile devices, represents a challenge and opportunity for IT. For decades, organisations have employed armies of application developers whose job was to automate business process with computing logic. The desire for differentiation and the need for tailored applications generated significant man-hours of work – literally creating entire communities of skilled workers capable of coding at a moment’s notice. Yet over time, this also crippled many organisations faced with the challenge of managing thousands of unique applications.
The BYOD phenomenon promises to transform how organisations develop and deliver applications. Many organisations are already shifting their application development to favour more mobile operating systems. Yet IT must also evaluate the risk and reward of sourcing ready-made applications from consumer oriented application stores. A recent count of applications under the “Productivity” category on the iTunes app store showed over 7,500 applications available for download. Aruba Networks has come across numerous examples of customer employees downloading (and paying for) app store applications to be used at work. This turns the established approach of application development and management upside-down.
While the rise of the app store presents obvious challenges to IT - whose task it is to manage and maintain enterprise applications – it can also be beneficial. Consider how employees can transform the way they work by freely sourcing new productivity-enhancing applications. On the one hand, IT should remain close to this “BYOA” phenomenon to limit any broader negative impact on support costs and security. On the other hand, the business should monitor and embrace possible efficiencies and improvements that may result from individual employees introducing timesaving applications into their existing workflow.
There’s little doubt that the consumerisation of IT is having a resounding effect on IT budgets, planning and operations. The growth in mobile devices and the decline in dominance of Windows-Intel based end user computing is the catalyst for change. Our reliance on mobile devices is growing and in the last year alone, 1 in 3 organisations across EMEA saw the number of devices connecting to their network increase by at least 50%. The implications of this demand for mobile connectivity do not stop at the device and the network; rather, they extend into the very fabric of the business itself. Thus, as the army of mobile workers continues to grow, organisations are faced with a choice: lead or follow. A successful BYOD strategy requires a comprehensive view of not only the devices themselves, but of the users, applications and workflows that they enable. Armed with this information - and a little foresight - IT organisations can not only survive, but thrive in the era of Bring Your Own Device.