Monday, July 22, 2013

BYOD vs Standardization - Understanding Your Mobile Strategy Pt1

Mobile devices, collaboration & mobility, seem to be a hot topic recently. In just about everyone’s pocket is a device that gives them instant access to the Internet. A Nielsen study recently found that “66% of Americans 24-35 now own a smartphone.” With so many users owning their own mobile devices and bringing them to the workplace, its not surprising that IT departments and employees are clashing over ownership, data access and privacy.


Employees aren’t waiting for IT & management approval to bring their devices to work. According to a CTIA study, “60 percent of IT professionals believe 25 percent or less of their employees are accessing work related information on their smartphone or tablet, while 57% of users said they access work related information on their smartphone or tablet at least once a week.” This may be why “smaller companies, with fewer than 500 employees, are less likely to communicate to their employees about BYOD and security.” Misconceptions about the workforce drive IT departments to prioritize the importance of strict mobile device policies, defaulting to device standardization. Standardization circumvents the grey areas of privacy and personal property, but comes with its own pitfalls.

Range of Device Standardization

Where does your organization currently stand?
Where do you want to be?
High device standardization
requires that everyone use the same type of PC (laptop vs desktop, Apple vs Microsoft vs Linux vs Unix), the same mobile phone (iPhone vs Android) even so far as to require the same model and software version (iPhone 4S or HTC ONE running Android v 4.1.2). This level of rigidity allows IT departments to specialize in a few devices and provide deeper levels of support, internally developing business operation platforms to obtain competitive advantage. High device standardization carries high device purchase costs and high technological debt, causing some enterprises to run outdated software.

Low (or zero) device standardization, BYOD, is essentially the exact opposite. Employees are able to use any device they like, creating an atmosphere that may have over 15 different types of devices, from different manufacturers, running different versions of software. This makes it difficult for IT employees to cultivate a high degree of proficiency in every device. Although IT staff may not be experts in all device types in an organization, this atmosphere opens the door for employees to create user groups and organize genius bars. The most important aspect of low device standardization is the high accessibility of data, which leads to greater gains and efficiencies, that we’ll explore in a later article of this series.

The Tipping Point is Mobility & Collaboration

As you’ve probably deduced, the conversation isn’t BYOD vs Standardization, but instead understanding the culture & needs of your workforce. If a high degree of mobility & collaboration is needed, then your data will need higher accessibility via more devices.

The goal is not to decide for your organization what level of mobility & accessibility is needed, but rather allow the organization and its members to dictate the level they require. Here are a few questions to help start to evaluate your organizational situation:

  • Does your organization have employees spread geographically? 
  • Is there a specific type of device the members of your organization already lean toward? 
  • Do the software platforms and data formats in use require a particular device or platform for access?

Use the questions above, and form other questions, targeting value-driving processes within your organization to gather data about your company’s environment & attitudes toward personal devices & data access. Use those insights to create a BYOD & mobile device policy and IT data access strategy that will be easier and more positively viewed by your workforce.

In the next installment of this series, “BYOD to COPE: The Mobility Spectrum

Daniel Proczko has been working with organizations and individuals to build & grow the entrepreneur community of Kalamazoo, MI. From organizing TEDx events, hack-a-thons, and documentary screenings to engaging with business leaders, Dan strives to inspire individuals with new ideas and better thinking.

Having always been interested in tech and understanding the value of innovation through IT, communicating the importance of strategic IT thinking is one of Dan's primary goals within Newmind Group.