Is Big Blue in for Higher Cost and Low Adoption
There was a great article this week in MIT’s Technology Review about IBM’s approach to BYOD. There are many great things about how IBM runs the IT organization. You could even call it a progressive group in some areas. However, the approach they are taking with BYOD gives the distinct impression of old style IT thinking that doesn’t recognize the consumerization of IT trends behind BYOD.
So what’s Wrong with IBM’s BYOD
The biggest issue IBM is going to face is adoption. IT consulting organizations learned in the 1990’s that productivity technologies didn’t deliver productivity improvements without user adoption. This spawned an entire sub-industry around change management consulting. Some key findings of the change management industry were how important training and ease of use were to adoption rates and in turn productivity gains. That model worked well in an era where the company dictated what applications were available and who would use them.
In our era consumerization of IT has upended the adoption equation in the enterprise and mobility is the leading catalyst. When consumer experiences and preferences are driving more IT decisions, forbidding use of popular consumer applications will be a BYOD dead end. Cisco saw this clearly and has recently ended funding for its non-consumer friendly Cius tablet.
So what is wrong with IBM’s stated BYOD program approach? Blocking Siri and iCloud. There are plenty of sound reasons for an enterprise to block these services. Data security and legal risk come to mind. However, the situation creates an immediate conflict. Consumers like these services and the Apple platform design pushes their increasing use. If IBM plans to block them on employee owned devices they will be taking away core elements of their consumer utility. This will inhibit adoption and regular usage. Either productivity will fall or IBM will be forced to provide employees with corporate supplied devices once again. This is not exactly the intended BYOD endgame.
Taking on More Challenges
The workaround articulated by IBM CIO, Jeannette Horan, includes blocking cloud based solutions such as iCloud and Dropbox and replacing them with the internally hosted solution, MyMobileHub. This is a bit of a red flag. IBM might be shedding the cost of devices, but are now taking on a cost as a hosting provider. This might be easier for IBM than others, but it still is a cost.
Storing your Employees’ Movies and Music
Given that these are personal consumer devices you can also see the issue of MyMobileHub serving as a consumer storage location for music and movies. Tablets and smartphones are extraordinary consumer entertainment devices. That is a primary reason why many people acquire their own tablets. However, the devices have limited storage and media, especially video content, consumes a lot of space. To accommodate a season of Mad Men on an iPad, you actually need to store some of it in iCloud and pull it down when ready to view. Do IBM employees who receive email on their iPads store this in MyMobileHub instead? What about personal family pictures and your music collection. In an era of big data analysis are you more concerned about a non-judgmental party such as Google or Facebook having access to information about your personal life or your employer.
Putting Friction Back into Mobility
The other key trend that the IBM approach undermines is common access from multiple devices. While most people had one smart computing device, a PC, just a few years ago, many now have three or more. The utility of tools such as the iCloud and Dropbox includes the ability to access your data from all of your devices. If you are storing data on an employee provided cloud such as MyMobileHub, you can only access it from devices that also have the IBM corporate software utilities and restrictions. This means no access from other personal devices.
BYOD Costs More
However, there is a more important comment in the Technology Review article that has not received any airplay. BYOD is not saving IBM money.
The trend toward employee-owned devices isn’t saving IBM any money, says Jeanette Horan, who is IBM’s chief information officer (Technology Review, IBM Faces Perils of “Bring Your Own Device”)
While few companies are moving to BYOD to save on cost alone, it is an oft cited benefit. If the enterprise can shed the cost of providing smartphones, it will reduce IT expense. At best, the reduced cost of devices partially offsets the new costs of implementing and administering BYOD systems and policy. However, at large enterprises such as IBM, telecom carriers will provide many devices at no cost. That means there is no direct savings, but there is a direct cost increase.
BYOD and mobility are facts of our business era. Just as companies are realizing they need to allocate more budget for big data analysis, they also need to allocate for enterprise mobility. This includes BYOD solutions such as mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management along with upgraded wireless networks.
Lessons for the Enterprise
So what is a CIO to do? First take a step back and don’t try to solve the problems as they arise.
- I need remote administration and security.
- I now need to block corporate data from leaking into the public sphere.
- I must now consider mobile anti-virus.
- I cannot move further until I upgrade my wireless network.
Instead, take a holistic view that starts with objectives and use cases and builds to an enterprise mobility architecture and governance model. Enterprise IT must rethink long-held assumptions about control and utility in this process. If control is still paramount, the company may have to go back to providing devices for employees.
The End of Company Provided Devices
A former colleague of mine offered this perspective.
When I hire someone, I don’t provide them with a car so they can get to work. Transportation is a requirement of the employee. When PCs and mobile phones were not common at home, companies may have needed to provide them. Today computing devices are everywhere and they are also required for an employee to conduct work just as much as showing up used to be. In fact, with tele-work computing devices are often more important than transportation since work can be done from anywhere. We are not far from a scenario where BYOD includes all computing devices that employees need to conduct their work. Why should I provide them with a phone, tablet and laptop. Let them choose and be responsible.
This is clearly the thinking of many CIOs and CFOs as they approach BYOD. However, if you look at IBM and the challenges they will face with adoption and cost you can see many companies trying to quickly reverse course to reclaim some control. Whether that will be successful as IT becomes more driver by consumerization is an open question.
Do you think organizations will stop providing any devices to employees or will they revert back to a scenario where they can once again exert more control? What is the IBM rebuttal to this? Please add your perspective below.