BYOD: The Disease slowly killing IT

There is this new(ish) thing in the IT world, this thing where people can bring whatever their device is into an environment.  What BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, represents is the degrading of corporate IT standards.  IT Standards are hated by employees world wide and seen as draconian.  Nobody likes them, nobody wants them but everybody needs them.  In recent years there have been more and more companies adopting an open standard, one where everybody can bring what they want into their office and use as a work phone.  It looks good on paper because a new employee gets to use their phone (and have the bill paid) while the company doesn’t have to buy another phone for the staffer.  It fosters an attitude of warm fuzzies with their employees and diversifies their handheld market.  With the influx of tables and lightweight laptops we are starting to see more and more of the BYOD extending to these devices as well.  In some progressive companies employees can work on whatever device they want.

As an IT professional I’d like to raise a flag of alarm here.  While BYOD looks fine and dandy on the outside, it’s killing your corporate IT structure slowly.  IT standards are annoying, I’ll admit, and they can be frustrating, but IT standards make our (the guys in IT) jobs much easier.  In fact your IT department can operate with much better efficiency and lower cost when strict IT standards are in place.

Expertise is expensive

Maintaining an IT department that can handle the growing pervasiveness of BYOD will get expensive.  It’s unrealistic to expect your IT guys to know how to service (with expertise) every kind of handheld and tablet when hiring.  You’ll probably have to hire an extra staffer with an area in expertise around a certain vendor or operating system to ensure youremployees get the support they need.  At the very least industry training will have to be provided.  Getting your staff trained up to be flexible enough to handle any BYOD is easily worth the cost of two handsets.

IT needs to know

The biggest point of frustration for the folks working your IT helpdesk is knowing what your employees are working on.  Without established and enforced standards there are steps that must be added to the triage process.  With IT standards it’s as easy as knowing User A is calling from finance, that means they have laptop X with software A, B and C installed.  If User B calls from R&D the helpdesk staff knows immediately that they have software D, E and F installed on laptop Z.  By going away from IT standards and embracing an BYOD environment you’re increasing the length of time it takes for the IT staff to troubleshoot and resolve an issue before your employees even pick up the phone.  Every manager will agree that IT departments are a financial expense and time is money, why not enable your IT team to operate in less time and more financial efficiency?  The momentary and short lived pain of introducing new employees to a IT Standardized workplace is far less than the ongoing pain of waiting for a response from a bogged down IT helpdesk.

Improved asset management

Asset management is a bit of a beast.  It grows to insurmountable sizes exponentially based on the organization.  Each employee usually represents at least three unique IT assets.  In many cases they have more.  With BYOD an IT team has to work with the new employee to catalog the technology they’re bringing into the organization.  Any kind of tracking software will have to be installed (if it’s compatible) manually.  Most people are hesitant to install company tracking software on their own devices, moreso with tablets and laptops.  None of this is an issue with a proper IT standard.  Asset lifecyle is also a big component to asset management.  Not only does IT need to keep tabs on what someone is using but how old it is.  The standard IT cycle is 3-5 years, a cycle that can be maintained and replenished with an IT standard.  Not only will your user base keep up with relatively modern trends, it allows your IT to negotiate volume discounts on bulk orders when replenishing.  Knowing what an employee in each department has and uses helps your IT better enable teams to complete the work that makes your business revenue.

Device Management

While it’s true that Microsoft and Blackberry offer suites of software that manage across all devices, they don’t do it as well as a solution that manages a specific family of devices.  By adhering to an established IT Standard your team can create efficient presets around device settings.  New employees are integrated into your systems faster and with little to no back and forth.  You’re actually not doing your IT team or employees any favours by letting them BYOD.

Security

Truth of the matter is, when you let everybody BYOD you have no real guarantee of corporate security from your employees.  When your IT department is managing a plethora of devices they cannot guarantee security.  Some devices just do corporate security better than others.  Some simply have better IT management tools.  By going BYOD you take away your IT department’s ability to properly secure and protect your corporate data.  When IT has control of handhelds and devices via a standardization policy, they can research and select which devices meet the requirements for security they want.  It is far easier to create and ensure lock tight corporate data security that way.  IT departments also encounter resistance when pushing corporate requirements down to personal devices.  You’ll get far less push back when the device is simply handed to a new user pre-configured.  Again, time is saved here.

I get how much of a pain IT standards can seem to management and employees alike.  The simple truth is that BYOD increases the time and cost of your IT department while decreasing their efficiency and capability.  In a world where time is money and an IT team is critical to ensure your corporation can earn revenue, perhaps it’s worth considering revising a BYOD policy.  In my opinion, the pain you get up front is well worth the time, money and potential security breaches you save in the end.

When it comes to IT and BYOD, convenience can have a very high price-tag indeed.

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