Let’s be blunt here. If I sit through another presentation telling me that the world is going to end because the guys in accounts want to use their iPads, and that it’s a terrible risk and the worlds going to end, I’m going to puke. If I hear the phrases paradigm shift or Generation X, or hear another commentary on how people aren’t going to take jobs because they can’t use their smartphone, I may well get punchy.
Stop it, all of you. It’s utter rubbish. Marketing types and sales people from West Coast vendors along with people in ICT Departments, I’m looking at you. Shame on you. And I’m going to explain why right now.
Technology is by default, an enabler. Unless you actually sell the technology, you use technology to allow you to deliver stuff and services to people or meet business objectives. That is it. There are implications of doing something a certain technical way, and you can mitigate any issues with a bit more technology or some process.
Technology is in a constant state of change, and we in industry invent stuff, wrap it up in shiny shiny ribbons and then sell it to customers. And the technology that really sells is the stuff that allows customers to meet their objectives cheaper and faster. But this isn’t a stop-start process, it’s a constant flow. Rarely do you find a genuinely game-changing moment, a revolutionary technology. To my mind, I can think of 3 in the last 30 thirty years:
1. PC adoption by business (because it increased productivity and therefore reduced costs, making products or services cheaper for customers to buy/use)
2. Mass adoption of the internet (because it increased productivity, made customers easy to contact and reduced costs, making products or services cheaper for customers to buy/use)
3. Virtualisation (because it reduced costs of deploying servers, making products or services cheaper for customers to buy/use)
Reducing your cost of supplying/transacting means it’s more attractive/profitable to do that thing.
And BYOD is just a manifestation of this. Applications are delivered via browser, because it’s cheaper than having standalone apps. Browsers run on any device practically these days (I am waiting for Firefox for my fridge. It’s only a matter of time). Apples, HTCs and Samsungs are shiny and cute and have browsers. People want to use shiny and cute, and they like the idea of having their personal life and work life on one machine (apparently. Personally I think this is just plain weird). So they want to use their own devices. And here’s the IMPORTANT BIT: if there is a business case to do so, do it. If there isn’t, don’t. If it makes your business more productive, reduces transaction costs then just do it. If it doesn’t, don’t.
And here’s the next reality check. We’ve done this before. Yep. We are just rehashing the arguments of 15 years ago when we gave our staff laptops. They took these devices, with corporate data on, and roamed the streets. We fretted about the security of the data. We fretted about them losing the devices. We fretted about them misusing the devices, either by accident or maliciously. We fretted about them surfing naughtily on these devices. So we put in place remediations to those issues and we got on with it.
The fact that BYOD changes the construct of the relationship with the IT Department slightly is called… change. But it’s hardly a (shudder) paradigm shift. It’s hardly new. We’re going to make sure these devices are fit for business purpose, and then we are going to secure them appropriately.