Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is often treated as an inevitability. But are Australian companies really embracing the concept? And does the tendency for senior managers to be the first to demand it mean we actually get fewer useful apps in a BYOD environment?
Part of today's BlackBerry 10 launch event was a panel discussion on the evolution of BYOD in Australia. Everyone on the panel agreed that there's a growing demand, but that doesn't mean it's being recognised in a formal sense.
"Australia is a risk-averse economy, so whilst we have one of the highest proportions in terms of penetration of smartphone, the official support of BYOD tends to lag much of the world," said Forrester Research analyst Tim Sheedy. Sheedy calculates that just 40 per cent of Australian businesses officially support BYOD, and even that is something of an overstatement. "Probably only about 60 per cent of them have a formal policy in place."
A truism of BYOD is that it often starts with a CEO tantrum and then spreads elsewhere. "Once you enable the C-level, you have other employees demanding it," noted BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins. Research by Optus suggests that while just 14 per cent of current workplaces offer mobile access to customer relationship management (CRM) software, that will rise to more than 50 per cent within three years. "It's latent demand; you get it and you want more and more," said Optus mobility VP Phil Offer.
The problem with an approach driven by senior executives is it can distort the rollout of actually useful apps to mobile environments, Sheedy argued. "There is a groundswell, regardless of what's happening at the top level, but it's the executive that will drive the decision and drive someone senior to out in time or money," Sheedy said. "But how often are executives in CRM and ERP and supply chain systems? They're not! They just want the data. The real workers — the ones that make a difference — are the ones who need the apps."
Sheedy also took issue with the often-heard argument that younger workers are the ones to embrace social networking and collaborative systems. "The need to collaborate is there across the board. The biggest collaborators are generally baby boomers, and do you know why?" Sheedy said. "Because they work from airports and client sites. They're senior, so they get the trips."
So does BYOD save money and hassle over a mandated work phone? So far, the answer seems unclear, with the most obvious change being the trading of one kind of IT management pain for another. "There's some disillusion settling in about that. "I hear from CIOs that smart device management becomes the misery point of their lives," Heins said.