The BYOD Battle May Be Over, But IT Departments Can Still Win The War

BYOD Battle

BYOD is an increasingly inevitable feature of the business landscape, and its reach will only continue to grow. IT departments are under growing pressure to support devices which fall outside of their traditional remit; whilst this presents a challenge, the alternative is a serious impact on the productivity and bottom line of an organisation.

It shouldn’t be a shock that people prefer using the smartphones, tablets and mobile devices that they know and are familiar with at work. What is surprising is the number of businesses that are failing to deal with BYOD. Corporate IT departments that do not support the movement risk becoming divorced from both the needs of the business and the expectations of users.

The Cost of Inaction

An unwillingness to get to grips with BYOD not only reduces the effectiveness of the IT department; it is also costing UK enterprise dearly. Hornbill recently sponsored an independent study of 1,500 UK office workers. Those surveyed estimated that being able to use their personal device in the workplace would save them two hours a month. When this figure is applied nationally it shows a staggering total of £2 billion in lost productivity across the UK; a stark example for those businesses who are not embracing BYOD.

Taking the Law Into Their Own Hands

The consensus among the corporate workforce itself summarises the situation best: 53% of office workers said IT departments are failing to keep pace with business needs. Because of this failure, some 40% of employees are taking matters into their own hands and using their personal devices without the permission of the IT department, an issue that will only worsen without intervention.

The results were even more pronounced amongst workers in the 16-34 years old category; with 49% of 16-24 year olds and 48% of 25-34 year olds saying they would use their devices regardless of IT’s knowledge. The longer businesses fight their employees by failing to offer support, the greater the likelihood they will lose out on potential productivity benefits and further expose themselves to other risks around data security and governance, especially as younger generations enter the workplace.

Who Runs What?

The research also had interesting implications for IT teams trying to decide when exactly a device becomes their responsibility. 38% of respondents think the IT department should be supporting any personal device, regardless of how much it is used for work purposes.

Whilst this is unfeasible for many IT departments, it emphasises that personal devices have become so intrinsically linked with both the work and personal lives of UK workers that many do not draw a line between work or pleasure use. Setting employees’ expectations by introducing concise and clear policies around the use of personal devices will help ensure the IT department is not overstretching itself.

Help From Unexpected Places

Despite this apparent insistence from employees that IT departments should be on hand for any device, one of the most thought-provoking findings concerns who workers turn to with a problem. A whopping 82% said they would ask a colleague for help with simple IT questions or problems, rather than going directly to the IT department. This willingness to use peer-to-peer (P2P) or community knowledge can work in the favour of the IT department; fostering this kind of activity, offering self-service tools and hosting discussion forums, means IT departments can save a significant amount of time in dealing with ‘utility’ or ‘fire-fighting’ issues.

Ultimately, reticence in getting behind BYOD is damaging both the reputation and effectiveness of IT departments; businesses need to start looking at BYOD as something which can actually be of benefit, rather than just an operational and technical headache. In short, BYOD must be a movement which supports the ITSM team, rather than holding it back. The consumerisation of IT may not yet be complete, but IT departments can still reap the benefits of a much needed upgrade.

Patrick Bolger is Chief Evangelist at Hornbill and has been with the company since 1998. He is an active contributor to a number of strategic groups and partnerships that influence the service management industry, including the Service Desk Institute (SDI), Help Desk Institute (HDI), IT Service Management Forum (itSMF), Service Futures Group and Federation Against Software Theft (FAST). Prior to Hornbill, Patrick was Technical Services Director for Integrated Digital Systems (IDS), where he was responsible for systems integration and technical consulting. An industry veteran, he has significant first-hand experience of the issues facing IT and is an influential and recognized authority in the service management arena.