BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is inevitable. As stated in Voice&Data magazine’s January 2012 issue, it is a sure phenomenon that will catch up this year, even in an emerging market like India. This will be a good development. Employees will get the freedom to choose their devices to work with, communicate and create customer value. In this context if we refer back to the analogy of the pen versus the standard QWERTY keyboard, BYOD is just like allowing you and me to choose our own pen with which we prefer to write. Now, what kind of pen I like and how much I am willing to invest in one should definitely be my decision.
But, this raises two concerns:
1) The real reason behind adoption of BYOD?! The first issue I have is the motive of an organization to encourage BYOD. Since the 2008 global recession, we have all seen IT infrastructure refresh spans widening. Many enterprises in the SMB sector are using outdated and old infrastructure as they cannot budget for the refresh. So, how will enterprises make sure that they are encouraging BYOD in its true spirit and not asking their employees to shoulder the responsibility of upgrading IT infrastructure? While it is true that organizations will reimburse the legitimate expenses incurred by employees on their personal devices, but it is a fact today that due to the uncertain economic conditions and lukewarm market growth, many SMBs resort to deliberate delays to maintain cash flows. In such a scenario, the employee may get reimbursed after several months. In the best interests of business and employee morale, it is incumbent upon organizational managements to ensure that this is not the ulterior objective.
2) Proprietary Software: Individuals (here employees of business enterprises) will typically purchase devices, particularly laptop PCs which have licensed software for home users – something common with MS Office. Firstly, this will not have all the applications used in an enterprise and at the same time will be a violation of the license terms, as Home edition licenses allow usage of software in non-commercial settings only. How will this issue be addressed?
If the above two concerns are true, it prima facie emerges that BYOD will be pushed by enterprises to gain access to the latest IT infrastructure, that is paid for by employees but which violates software licensing conditions.
This will be very common with devices like laptop PCs where a differentiated software licensing regime exists, while for smartphones and tablets it may not hold true. BYOD is not a concept that will not work, but, perhaps, we need to mature to a point where cloud based services are available that provide all the applications and software used by an organization, licensed for commercial use. In such a situation it will be immaterial from where (type of device) corporate applications are accessed.