Are users really doing it for themselves? Can we really forget device management? Will devices be truly disposable, or irrelevant? In my previous blog post “Windows Desktop and the BYOD Trend” I observed that BYOD has mostly come to mean “BYO Smartphone”, but what about Macs, or Surface, or iPads? Do users really need IT to prepare and configure these devices for them? As long as IT can ensure the business is protected from user activities then why do they need to manage these devices, which reportedly require so little support?
The first part of the answer is “it depends on your industry”. Financial institutions, healthcare and government agencies have much stricter requirements on privacy and user security that require IT to keep tight control on devices. They just can’t afford to relinquish control of the endpoints, but what about industries that aren’t as regulated?
Personally I am a fan of BYOD in a desktop/laptop context, or at least COPE, because I am one of many kids in the world who can look after their own computers just fine, and we left school and joined the workforce. We never asked IT to set up a file server, or expand our email quota, or to install an app for us. When my laptop died the other day I didn’t take it to IT, I went and got the battery fixed in the mall while I wrote my previous blog post on a tablet.
Of course, I am also aware that putting too much trust in the hands of less technically savvy users will turn BYOD into “Bring Your Own Disaster”. In fact, contrary to the promise of consumerization, anecdotal evidence suggests many IT departments are now finding they have to support more devices, not fewer. The vision of allowing users to select the work style that suits them best and makes them most productive places new burdens on IT. Unfortunately most users are not capable of maintaining their own equipment (yet), and IT has to rescue them whenever when their choice of devices, applications or data stores break, malfunction, or get stolen/hacked. Even worse, IT then has to supply a different device when the user has chosen a platform which doesn’t support the tools they need to do their job.
Despite this the shift to people-centric IT is inevitable. Proactive users will find the fastest way to get results and apply them. Today’s entry-level employees will be tomorrow’s middle management, professionals nurtured in a consumerized age. More and more computer-literate kids will enter the workforce who grew up without an IT department to help them, and they will simply BYOD. As they say in Latin, fuit.
So for now we are once again in a hybrid world, with some BYOD and a lot of burden on IT. I would suggest that there is a third way that takes us forward. Multiple solutions are now available which create a secured working environment inside personally enabled (or even personally owned) devices, and carefully separate and sandbox those two worlds using policy. To effectively use this technology, IT needs an all-encompassing view of IT assets and user activity to create and maintain those policies. It won’t work for those users who still need “full service” IT, but for an increasing number of Gen-Y workers it will make them more productive and motivated, and give them the widest choice of tools to do their job. That’s our vision. Would it work for you?