Bring your own device (BYOD), or the policy of allowing employees to bring personally owned computing platforms to work to perform work tasks, has raised security and management concerns.
The reality is that this is a pattern that has been repeated several times over the years. This pattern has to do with the dissonance that forms when humans and computers move to the next level of technology and practices.
Some of you may have been doing this as long as I have – Do you remember when IP or (Internet Protocol) wasn’t the only thing on the wire? If you were in an IBM dominated shop, they used to call us the “Open Systems” (referring to devices that ran IP.) For the most part, we were treated the way mobile BYOD folks are treated now. Basically, we were guilty until proven innocent. At the time no one could measure our productivity gains directly, so it was nearly impossible to make a solid business case against protocol stacks like IBM or Novell’s IPX. Then suddenly, the Internet happened and, for the most part, IP quickly became the dominant network protocol. In retrospect this might seem like a smooth transition but I promise if you were there fighting the fight, you remember it as a period of dissonance with plenty of drama.
In the same way that IP connected the world in a completely new way, new personal computing devices are redefining the ritual space we call ‘work’. Work is no longer a physical place and phrases like “I need to go to work” are going to fade away just like the buzzing and squealing of dial-up modems. Instead, work is becoming a set of processes. It turns out that more often than not these processes can be executed more effectively when you aren’t sitting in your assigned cubicle in front of your assigned corporate owned computing device.
Recently, I’ve found myself becoming much more sensitive to the context of a task. So much so that now I queue my task lists this way. Call it context-based task execution where one of the contexts is location. (In my task lists things, people, and places, are the parent categories – you get the idea)
Another factor that’s often overlooked in BYOD is the emotions connected with the buy decision for personal devices. Compare this with corporate purchases that are all about the numbers and how they stack up in Excel.
People tend to fall in love with their devices; corporations are just evaluating total cost of ownership and specs. This aspect of BYOD has the potential to drive profound change over time as companies make provisions for their users.
In the not too distant future I can see the IT Ops folks moving away from the role of network device cop and toward the role of device consultant. Instead of kicking users off the network and reprimanding them for attaching unmanaged devices, users will proactively consult with IT Ops about which devices to buy and be involved very early in the lifecycle.
Some companies have already embraced this change and those companies, just like the ones that embraced IP early on, are going to have an easier time attracting and retaining the best talent which translates into better profits. The trick will be new metrics in the measurement of productivity and associating on-time delivery, innovation, or product quality to these new aspects of work.
Others will fight the change and, as we saw in the transition that made IP the dominant network protocol, may not survive.
It’s estimated that 129 million people will have purchased their own smartphones for work use in 2013. These numbers are growing and what you must realize is that some of the most important communication and decisions you will make in 2013 will likely be done on your smartphone.