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“Bring your own device” 101

BYOD 101

What you need to know before implementing a bring your own device program

Ben Winer | March 17, 2015

The IT trend of consumerization has led many organizations to explore implementing a bring your own device (BYOD) program. On the surface, BYOD seems like a win-win: Users can have the freedom to choose devices from an ever-competitive market (new iPhones, cheap family unlimited plans, Emojis!!!). For IT organizations, cost cutting, slimming down support staff, and creating customized business apps is very appetizing. It’s debatable, however, whether or not the costs really can be cut, or whether users will embrace the change. Either way, there are certain considerations that may not seem obvious.

Let’s assume that your IT leadership has decided to put together a BYOD program.

Many technical and functional requirements will drive your decisions on what vendors, policies, and software to work with. The success of your program will lie with both the IT department and the end users who will be making the switch. Whether you are enabling 100 users to connect to their corporate email or retiring 5,000 BlackBerries, BYOD programs succeed when there is an implicit agreement between business users and IT that BYOD will help them both succeed.

If the scales tip toward primarily meeting the needs of IT, users will begin to distrust the IT department and adoption will suffer. Users will end up buying secondary work devices, finding alternatives to skirt the security protocol, or at the very least end up questioning the organization’s intentions of implementing BYOD. If you favor the user too much, however, you may be compromising data security, internal controls and possibly creating an illegal environment for your intellectual property.

Get agreement

From the get-go, make sure that both the business and IT teams agree on the business case for a BYOD program. For true adoption of any technology change, make sure a business need/desire is being met by implementing it. Are you asking your users to work on their mobile devices? Are you asking them to be more available? Maybe you just want them to check their mail when they aren’t in the office.

Create a steering and/or sponsorship committee across business units at all levels to make sure specific business needs are being discussed. Technology requirements may trump some needs, but you can have an open dialogue about why certain decisions will be made. You are bound to have some unique user scenarios or business requirements you weren’t privy to. This will also ensure that you are in line with departments like HR, Legal, and Payroll (stipends). Having business users and core IT teams talking early in the process can prove helpful when dealing with complex policy, procedures, and technology considerations.

Make a plan

A comprehensive change plan containing a communication plan, training analyses, leadership alignment plan, and stakeholder engagement strategy is crucial in managing the change journey you are about to embark on.

There is no way to consider all possible outcomes of your BYOD implementation, but here are some considerations that may be worth exploring before you begin. This is not a replacement for a proper project or change plan, but they may help you steer clear of the project going awry.

1. Procedures:

Whether you are replacing existing BlackBerry devices, or starting BYOD from scratch, you need to make it easy for users to participate, and for IT administrators to deploy and monitor. Established process and procedures should be developed for both sides.

Questions to ask your team:

  • How will users register devices?
  • Are users allowed more than one device?
  • How will you retrieve old devices, or transfer data from old to new?
  • How far in advance should you prepare people for the switch?

Questions that users will ask your team:

“Is my iPhone certified?”

It may be called BYOD, but in most cases, you will have security restrictions on the types of devices accepted. Make sure you make these requirements known and that they're kept up to date. A new iPhone, or shiny new tablet, is always one month away.

“Ever since I got on BYOD, my refrigerator isn’t as cold, and my garage keeps opening”

Make it clear to both your support team and users where help is located. Mobile carriers will not know the specifics of your BYOD program. And your support team shouldn’t be accountable to enable the next great feature on Instagram. A clear outline of where users can get help will make sure they don’t feel left out in the cold when a problem with their device occurs.

“Sprint told me I had to get an unlimited plan” and/or “What’s the Wi-Fi password?”

By moving to BYOD, users will be consuming more data on their devices than they did before. Users will most likely insist on connecting to Wi-Fi to reduce data charges. If you have a Wi-Fi environment, make sure it can handle a large influx of users.

If Wi-Fi is not part of the plan, make sure you set reasonable expectations on data use. Email consumption is grossly overstated and misunderstood by most cell phone users. Even the heaviest users of email are consuming far less MBs than they think. Be clear in your device data requirements how much data users should expect to consume on a monthly basis. In most cases, you should let users know how much they can expect to use for work purposes, and let them decide how much to get for the personal side of their devices.

2. Policies:

Policymaking can be messy. With BYOD, you are essentially allowing users to tap into your systems with their own devices. This can be dangerous for not only the company, but the user as well. The goal of good policy should be to protect both sides of the equation. Well-thought-out policy that has been vetted by Human Resources, Data security, Legal, and Finance departments will go a long way towards alleviating confusion when a one-off scenario comes about with a user.

Questions you should be asking your team:

  • What happens when a user leaves their phone on the subway?
  • Are there certain device requirements? Are users responsible for updating devices?
  • Are users explicitly aware that they own their phones, but not their corporate email?
  • When and how do users get their stipends? Is that taxable?
  • What happens if the user leaves the company? What if they are on legal hold?

Questions that your team will hear from users:

“Are you able to read my text messages?” and “Can you wipe my device anytime you want”?

Those of us who work with IT departments know the hard truth: IT teams are too busy implementing, supporting, troubleshooting, and enhancing their technical environments to have the capacity to be voyeurs. They certainly don’t have time to see what you are doing on your Facebook and who you are text messaging.

No matter how much you try to convince users that they are not being spied on, you must make sure that you have proper policies in place to protect both the user and the organization from risk. Users need to know that the BYOD effort is a shared responsibility with the organization to make their lives more flexible and convenient in a secure and safe environment. BYOD policy should not be an encroachment into the personal side of a user device. Think through all the areas that this may hit, especially if you are dealing with a regulated industry.

3. Technologies:

Everyone has heard their coworker rave about how amazing it is that their four-year-old can operate an iPad without assistance. Tech companies (and their marketing teams) have done wonders in making complex amazing machines seem so simple to use. But the concept of “even a child can do it” is just not relevant when dealing with multi-generational work environments. BYOD programs can often result in workers purchasing their first smart phone. What seems so simple to those who use multiple devices, can be quite a foreign concept to newbies. Think about explaining the concept of “swiping” to someone who has never actually swiped!

Questions that your team will hear from users:

  • Does my support team have the skills to support multiple operating systems and device types?
  • Are your users accustomed to one operating system?
  • Will you offer a one-time upgrade stipend?
  • Are you going to allow tablets?

Questions that your team will hear from users:

“I’m not a technical person, but …”

Ah, yes, the great disclaimer. Most times when users are stating this, they are saying “please just do it for me.” By removing the control of a corporate device, you could be changing your IT support environment from concierge to self-serve. Job aids and quick start guides can assist, but prepared to coach your IT support staff to deal with a wide range of user device maturity.

“How come I can’t see our portal on my device?

On the other side of the spectrum, you will find mobile device junkies who are looking to push the limits of what they can do with their devices. Now that you are encouraging users to use their mobile devices, it may be time to talk with whoever is responsible with business applications or internal websites.

These considerations are just some of the things that can be overlooked when IT teams are researching possible BYOD approaches. Being prepared for these types of questions and concerns will be your first step in establishing a collaborative approach where both users and IT are happy.

Ben Winer is an Organizational Effectiveness consultant focusing on collaboration tools, technical user adoption, training, communication, end-user acceptance, and usability in the change management field.


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