A caveat on the BYO device trend

There is no doubt that the BYO device phenomenon can deliver a host of advantages to a business. However, the trend brings with it its own set of challenges that IT departments need to be on top of.

The “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend is gaining real momentum, with organisations embracing the value that such a policy can offer.. Aside from increasing productivity and aiding employee mobility, a BYOD policy can also reduce IT costs and improve end-user satisfaction.

In times of economic uncertainty, with cuts to enterprise IT budgets and caution around spending, adopting a BYOD policy can be useful in improving end-user satisfaction when hardware refreshes are not possible. However, there are hidden costs to consider surrounding service provision, of which IT service managers need to be aware. Failure to consider these costs will stretch the resources of the IT department and, in particular, the service desk.

BYOD continues to gain momentum

Consumer adoption of devices such as smartphones and tablets has resulted in increased demand from employees for the use of these devices in the workplace. The recent success of Android-based smartphones, along with the Apple’s iPad and iPhone, has led to the BYOD trend gaining significant momentum over the past year or so.

Since ITIL V3′s release in 2007 and its revisions in June 2011, IT service providers have been encouraged to follow a framework of better aligning their IT services with the business, maximising their resources and, as a result, providing greater business value. Organisations and, in particular, key executive decision-makers are attaching real value to the implementation of a BYOD policy.

The value that BYOD can offer is often linked to enabling employees to be more productive. Using their own devices means that employees can be more mobile and work with devices that fulfill their specification requirements, resulting in increased satisfaction. It is this flexibility that will encourage a greater level of innovation in the way employees work and undertake their daily duties.

A BYOD strategy also presents IT departments with an opportunity to reduce their IT spending costs and, in particular, costs associated with hardware expenditure. Employee-owned devices are also likely to have their own warranty or service agreement in place. This could further reduce the volume of support contracts that IT departments have with manufacturers.

Beware of hidden service costs

For IT service departments, the BYOD trend presents challenges, especially in the way that they offer support. By allowing users to use their own devices, IT service departments lose a layer of control that they have with corporately provisioned hardware.

It is important for IT support teams, specifically the service desk, along with service-level management, to define their support boundaries clearly, setting users’ expectations relating to the support of BYOD. This may begin with deciding to support only Apple iOS devices, for example. Failure to establish and publicise these expectations will result in new support calls relating to incidents that service desks are unable to manage, which will have a negative impact on their performance metrics. Examples of this would include incidents relating to hardware faults on devices that are not corporately owned, or relating to the support of applications that are not corporately provisioned.

Potential costs associated with request fulfilment are something else to consider. As part of defining user expectations, enterprises need to highlight what will and will not be provided as part of the BYOD policy. Failure to do this could result in requests for paid applications to aid productivity being received by the service desk, with such cases requiring manual management by staff. In this instance, should it be supported by a relevant service-level agreement (SLA), an enterprise application store would be beneficial, providing users with a portal from which to download corporately provisioned applications without further overstretching service-desk resources.

Service-desk staff will also require additional training on supported devices and their operating systems. Particular attention would need to be paid to the Android and iOS operating systems, due to their continued dominance of the consumer mobile operating system market. As these operating systems are updated, training will need to be refreshed to ensure that the service delivered is up to date. It is important that IT departments consider this potential overhead.

There is no doubt that the BYOD phenomenon can deliver a host of advantages to a business. However, the trend brings with it its own set of challenges for IT departments. 

Adam Holtby is a research analyst (Software/IT Solutions) at Ovum.



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