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IT strikes back in BYOD battle

IT pros besieged by demands to support all manner of once-unsanctioned tablets and smartphones in the office really want users to know why they hesitate to do so.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend puts IT departments in a bind. Employees — often led by C-level execs — want to use their iPads(s aapl), iPhones and other devices for work. But while those devices are easy to use, they’re not so easily integrated into corporate IT, especially in an age where IT staffs have been cut while their workloads have not.

My story last week on this issue — based on new Forrester(s f) research — struck a chord with IT pros. They didn’t disagree with the idea that if IT “locks down” personal devices — stripping iPhones of Siri as IBM is doing for example — employees will just use the devices anyway, but without IT awareness or sanction. Their beef is more around the reason IT isn’t necessarily rushing to embrace BYOD.

From their posted comments it was clear that IT pros don’t fear and loathe BYOD but that their departments are understaffed and overwhelmed.

Here’s a sampling of the commentary:

Todd Baker wrote that the underlying issue is that IT is not getting the resources it needs to support these devices:

Blame the executives who refuse to fund what IT does, continuously cut back and outsource the departments and still demand the same performance and productivity. … if you want a solid IT department you have to pay for it.

Commenter Tony agreed:

I’m not saying [BYOD] wouldn’t be great – I’m just saying, this costs money, that the corp execs just don’t want to spend, and I’m damn sure not gonna waste my time doing it (researching your tool-needs), when I’m already juggling the workload of 3, due to cutbacks.

Another post, signed by Projectzme, said one suggested solution — desktop virtualization — is too pricey to be realistic for many companies:

Forrester also suggests virtual technologies to provide a good solid Windows environment … [but] the world is in a recession and while the IBM’s of the world can afford to … get a VMware or Citrix infrastructure in place is expensive. Sure this could be done off site in the “cloud” but again, security is not in your control. For many companies just staying afloat is a problem enough.

Given the passionate arguments, don’t look for this BYOD debate to wind down any time soon.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock photographer Ostill

6 Responses to “IT strikes back in BYOD battle”

  1. David K. Johnson

    As the author of this particular research at Forrester, I’m hoping now might be an appropriate time to come back and comment on this discussion. Some very insightful people engaged on this topic on all sides of the discussion.

    Firstly, Justin Pirie, your comments on this thread are superb. The purpose of the research is to show that the current workforce computing operating model for many firms, largely for budgetary reasons, is not sustainable for the long term. And, the data show that employee workstyles and the options available to them are changing rapidly. We see a storm brewing.

    To those who are sincere in your desire to want to help people better given more resources, I get it and am encouraged – but the challenge to you is also to ask yourself and your team the hard questions about what you can stop doing. There are others however, very common in IT, who prefer a more dictatorial approach toward the workers that they serve, and presume that they know best what employees need. These are the folks I worry about for the long term. I learned a long time ago, never to bet against the end user. I’ve seen a raft of departures of CIOs in the past year who tried to sustain a state of “no”.

    I could not agree more with the comments that there is a serious budget shortfall for workforce computing in practically every firm. But we can also see clearly in the data and the research with these same firms that large groups of workers are underserved by IT by nearly $2,000 a year, and are taking matters into their own hands. We also can see that that there are new innovations and alternatives that IT employees embroiled in the daily grind of solving problems cannot see or find enough time to study.

    Given these sets of facts, where does that leave us? Should we keep putting money into the same old tools and ways of working, or should we fundamentally shift the focus toward disruptive approaches that eliminate the need for the old ways entirely? In my role here, I am fortunate to get to work directly with some very forward thinking IT professionals and companies doing exactly that.

    My sincere hope in all of this, is that IT professionals begin to ask the most prescient questions of all: just because we can do something, does that mean that we are the best to do it? From that can come new operating models. For example, I think that Windows InTune holds a lot of promise for getting client management cut down to a reasonable size – especially for smaller firms.

    I also think that new security models currently evolving very fast, combined with native recovery tools that actually work built into the OSs, will eventually get us out of managing endpoints at all. What happens when we ask the question: What if no endpoint is trusted or secure? What if we stop worrying about making them secure? Answer: Security moves to the data itself (encryption, rights management), to the identity and access layers, and to the network.

    Anyway, sincere thanks to everyone engaged in this discussion. As an old boss of mine used to say: If we aren’t breaking some glass once in a while, we aren’t solving any problems.


  2. Justin Pirie

    Great post Barb- I was only this morning on a call talking about this very topic.

    You hit the nail on the head: “From their posted comments it was clear that IT pros don’t fear and loathe BYOD but that their departments are understaffed and overwhelmed by work.”

    Did you see Mark Thiele’s GigaOM post yesterday: Cloud is a state of the business, not just IT?

    To me, this accurately captures the problems organisations have adopting Cloud and by extension BYOD:

    “For a legacy IT organization to adopt cloud solutions without significant organizational realignment and improved business participation, the benefits would largely be wasted. It’s akin to thinking you can put a modern 500-horse power engine in a 1970’s economy car and get all the same performance and protection characteristics you would enjoy in a 2012 model year luxury sedan.

    In fact, the introduction of cloud without organizational improvements would likely increase enterprise risk and potentially cost.”

    It seems to me like many organisations are trying to adopt the latest technology like BYOD without changing the underlying IT operating model to facilitate it. And it’s not ITs fault either, they often aren’t given the time and therefore the money to do it.

    Frankly their organisations are putting IT between a rock and a hard place. If IT doesn’t enable BYOD, then users will do it anyway, putting the companies data more at risk, if they do without understanding the risks, they will be responsible for any failures.

    But IT departments do have options IMHO. Many IT departments are stuck trying to provide custom services at commodity prices- Simon Wardley’s Evolution outlines this really well:

    The longer IT departments try to compete with commodities the more pain they’re teams are going to feel- it’s time to choose how, and more importantly what to compete on, because the status quo isn’t acceptable to many businesses any more.

    IT teams need to buy commodity i.e. “cloud” services that make sense in their environmental, regulatory and security parameters. Coke doesn’t make all the Coke that people drink- they outsource it. They care about the brand, the experience and how people feel. IT needs to do the same.

    The security concerns exhibited by many people about cloud are generally overcome once understood well- at Mimecast we’ve helped over 5500 companies with 1.4m users take their email archiving and security to the cloud and this is a well trodden path.

    Just because IT can make something, doesn’t mean IT should. Their new role is as a data custodian not a manufacturer of everything.

    Is that an unrealistic hope?