News analysis

Forrester: The costs and benefits of BYOD

Cliff Saran

People will spend more than £1,200 to buy their own devices, which questions the need for IT departments to continue purchasing and supporting desktop and laptop PCs.

In a recent study by analyst Forrester, 33% of respondents admitted they had spent their own money on devices to help them do their job.

People using smartphones are generally tech savvy, which means they are used to configuring devices themselves, a task that would traditionally have been a function of desktop IT support. "People can get around IT due to the self-service app store," said Forrester principal analyst Michele Pelino.

This is good news for IT departments. "Employees want to use their own smartphones, and IT can't stay ahead at a corporate level," said senior analyst David Johnson. 

The main problem is that IT is too focused on security. In another survey, Forrester found that 53% of the companies it spoke to did not allow people to use their own devices.

Stopping device access adds to the IT department workload and limits rather than protects business

Given that IT is under-funded, stopping device access just adds to the workload and, in many cases, limits rather than protects business. 

"IT cannot understand the operating environment of business," said Johnson. "People will solve problems executives cannot see. Allowing people to bring their own devices to work will unlock their potential."

Managing BYOD security

So IT needs to rethink priorities. But this is not the first time in the history of IT that IT departments have come under pressure from users. 

"The reason we ran Windows PCs in the 1990s is because they ran the software people used. Most of the things people need today are outside the firewall," said Johnson. 

In fact, 16% of users are prepared to use software-as-a-service (SaaS) in their work, according to the Forrester survey, which means the IT department has less control of desktop technology.

In Forrester’s Five steps to a successful BYOC program report, Johnson noted that the more access a worker has to privileged data, such as customer billing information, trade secrets and medical records, the more critical it is that information security rules are enforced.

"You need to ask if people truly have access to privileged information, or which regulations the company must comply with," he added. 

VPN software and browser-based access will also provide security controls, but the security landscape is changing and end-to-end encryption of data will eventually boost smartphone security.

In terms of bring your own devices (BYOD) strategies, Forrester separates devices such as smartphones from personal computers. Access to corporate applications such as e-mail can easily be controlled.

On the personal computing front, a full desktop environment is harder to secure. While supporting a few executives who want to use MacBooks may be possible today, it is not scalable. 

"Workers with moderate or better technical abilities, few dependencies on internal or legacy applications, and low security requirements are the best candidates for self-support initially. They’ll also be the least likely to need help to remain productive with the computer of their choosing," Johnson wrote in the report. "The self-support zone may initially be small, but client virtualisation, community development and self-service tools will allow you to rapidly expand."

The total cost of BYOD is higher than not supporting BYOD

Ted Schadler, senior vice-president, Forrester Research

Weighing up BYOD costs

CIOs will need to assess the cost of supporting workers bringing in their own devices, according to Ted Schadler, senior vice-president at Forrester Research. "The total cost of BYOD is higher than not supporting BYOD," he said.

Even when BYOD is a success, such as at Kraft Food, which gave its executives a dashboard app for their iPads, there can be an unforeseen impact. As a result of Kraft's iPad app, Schadler said the food company's datamart needed upgrading because more people were accessing it.

Device management software can limit corporate data loss, but there is a cost impact, since IT needs to license the device management software for every smartphone user.

If a business runs tablets and client PCs that access enterprise applications, they may to support and license two versions of the client software.

IT departments may also need to consider mobile data traffic and costs, which will increase if people use 3G to access corporate applications. Schadler suggested giving users a monthly allowance, such as £16 per month for data access.


Photo: Stockbyte/Thinkstock


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