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BYOD a fading fad as IT challenges prove too great

06 Jun 2014

V3's Dan RobinsonA couple of years ago, bring your own device (BYOD) was the hot topic of discussion. You could barely read any articles in the technology press without hearing about how BYOD was going to shake up business IT and free up workers, or something along those lines.

Then the mainstream press got in on the act, and we started to hear about how the PC was dead, and that everyone was going to be using consumer tablets from now on, and everything was going to be wonderful.

Since then, the hype about employees using their own devices in the workplace has abated somewhat, and we have started to get a more sober appraisal; things haven't turned out as predicted, the PC isn't dead, and utopia hasn't happened.

Perhaps coincidentally, BlackBerry and Microsoft both presented some research regarding BYOD at separate customer events held in London this week. Although the two firms were obviously promoting their own products and services, they painted a consistent picture of what has actually been happening with regards to BYOD.

Speaking at the Microsoft event, John Delaney, who heads the European Mobility Team at analyst firm IDC, said that BYOD has reached a plateau, with effectively the same number of companies operating such a scheme this year as last. There is also no significant increase in companies intending to adopt such a policy in the near future, either.

And while the trend may have taken off somewhat in the US, only a third of companies over here in Europe are offering some form of BYOD policy, Delaney said.

While some of this can be attributed to cultural differences between the two regions, BlackBerry's managing director for Europe, Markus Mueller, had other reasons; BYOD has led to more cost and complexity for the IT department when supporting end users.

"The idea was to save money while giving more choice to users, but what actually happened is that it became a nightmare, with lots of different devices with different versions of iOS and Android finding their way into organisations. It actually created more cost," he said.

Instead, companies are turning to choose your own device (CYOD), according to Delaney, where employees get to pick from a shortlist of company-owned hardware. Meanwhile, BlackBerry sees corporate-owned, personally enabled (COPE) as the way forward, where employees are allowed to use their company-owned device for things other than just work, such as downloading Facebook or games onto their phone.

Both of these visions are slightly self-serving, in that CYOD is likely to see most enterprises offer employees a choice from a handful of Windows devices, while COPE is well suited for the Balance feature of BlackBerry's smartphones, which keeps work and personal content securely separate.

However, they are both much more restrained options than the free-for-all scenario that was touted by the BYOD proponents, who claimed that the era when the IT department could dictate to employees or even control them at all was drawing to a close.

As anyone who gave the notion more than a moment's thought could have told you, this was never going to work. Give a team of 12 people the chance to choose what they want to use in the workplace and the chances are you will end up with 12 completely different devices, comprising a motley collection of operating systems and applications.

Providing support for all those devices, and more importantly, protecting any company data that might be accessed on them, would be an impossible task.

Look around any office today, and the chances are you will still see a bunch of Windows PCs, with perhaps some Macs in evidence. Tablets have found their way into the enterprise, but these tend to be companion device to a PC or Mac, unless you are one of those executives who doesn't really do any work anyway.

Things are different on the phone side, because pretty much everybody owns a smartphone these days anyway, and many companies are willing to let users access their work email this way.

So there you have it. BYOD seems to have been just a flash in the pan. Perhaps it never really was more than just a fanciful notion in the heads of some business owners - most likely in the US - who thought they could cut their IT bill by getting all their employees to supply their own computer instead.

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Daniel Robinson

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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