Channel Curmudgeon: BYOD Isn’t Dead, But It Should Be

C.P. McGrowl, Channel Curmudgeon

C.P. McGrowl

By C.P. McGrowl, Chief Channel Curmudgeon

As an industry, we’re great at inventing and then obsessing over non-issues. However, even within that brand of foolishness, nothing quite approaches the meaninglessness of BYOD. You know you’ve got a losing topic when the more you say about it, the less your staff and customers understand.

BYOD should never have come under the purview of IT, beyond weighing in on which ridiculously fragile $800 device is least likely to shatter when dropped in the parking lot. In most cases, it’s primarily a human-resources issue. In all cases, it should be a security issue; however, that message seems to have landed only with that select group of organizations with a recognized security exposure and regulations that compel them to actually cover their assets. That category certainly includes financial-services firms and government agencies. It should include organizations with HIPAA-compliance requirements, but I’ve seen such egregious mishandling of mobile security in the health-care vertical, I figure they missed the memo.

We’ll get back to the security fails in a moment.

From an HR perspective, handing an employee a company-paid smartphone with a data plan, or the cash equivalent, is a perk, a bonus, a freebie … whatever you want to call it, it’s a benefit of employment. Virtually all COPE or CORE or BYOD programs allow employees “reasonable personal use” on their company-provided or -paid phones. Sometimes, we even define “reasonable,” but I can’t ever recall an employee at my company or a customers’ getting called out as unreasonable. I suppose a few people got dinged for spending beaucoup time streaming Netflix on the company data plan, but HR kept it quiet.

And yet, when is the last time an employee expressed understanding that they’re getting a “bennie” here, never mind appreciation?

Look, BYOD came about for a number of different reasons, only some of them pertaining to the well-being of the employer. My theory is, IT wanted to maintain its status as the most annoying artifact of 1980s business management. Championing BYOD – sometimes using reverse psychology and crying about it in public – meant IT got to dictate that everyone had to stick with the corporate BlackBerry they were issued and that was that. The problem is that executives wanted iPhones, and if IT wasn’t hip enough to get that, they’d use their own. The cost didn’t bother them; they’re executives. Of course, the early versions of the iPhone didn’t have access to any mobility-management capabilities, but did we mention, executives?

Eventually, Good Technologies came along with a solution that, miraculously, made an iPhone an even worse option than a BlackBerry. IT rejoiced.

Unsurprisingly, once the masses had iPhones, executives got tired of IT having access to their personal data and the ability to nuke the vacation photos. Microsoft made it so everyone could get to their email, IT support or not. Ditto Google and documents. Enthusiasm for issuing devices waned. CFOs got the idea that they could drop this freebie, cut off the flow of unlimited data and save a lot of cash. What the heck, we could throw the user a stipend, say $50 per month, to compensate for them using their own phones for business and still come out ahead of the game.

Of course, once the HR folks found out that IT and the bean counters had conspired …

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