BYOD Q&A with Gartner's David Willis

By now you've probably read some form of news about the latest BYOD research from Gartner, predicting that half of all enterprises will be embracing BYOD by 2017. To dive a little deeper on the research we emailed David Willis, Chief of Research for Mobility and Communications and Senior Research Board Leader at Gartner, who kindly consented to "add a little color" to the firm's report.

Mobile Enterprise 360: In the report Gartner says "BYOD drives innovation for CIOs and the business by increasing the number of mobile application users in the workforce." Yet there is also the statements that "BYOD needs to be better evaluated" and "Most leaders do not understand the benefits." Are there any metrics yet that let backers put a good ROI number on BYOD?

David Willis: What happens when your cost of mobile computing is cut in half? What can you do differently when you double or triple the number of workers who have access to mobile apps?  If you're an airline, you can have a flight crew bid for routes directly on their own phones. Or if you're in government services, you can have caseworkers stay out in the field helping citizens. Pizza delivery guys can use their personal phones for routing.  Managers can distribute crew schedules online.  Workers can use their devices to check in at a job site and get their daily assignments. The economics totally change when you remove the burden of provisioning devices. But the business case is specific to the business.

Mobile Enterprise 360: In the report you state that "The enterprise should subsidize only the service plan on a smartphone." Are there interim solutions you recommend (like a tiered list of choices, including company-provided and company-reimbursed), or does it make most sense to move directly to a service-plan only subsidizing plan?

David Willis:  IT organizations need to give workers guidelines on what types of devices will be good for work, especially if they subsidize it.   If you give them a car allowance, they shouldn't spend it on a sailboat.   

Some devices are going to be better for work than others.  In fact, companies could provide a higher subsidy for devices that are more fully supported.

The enterprise should subsidize only the service plan on a smartphone.  What happens if you buy a device for an employee and they leave the job a month later? How are you going to settle up?  Better to keep it simple: They own the device, and your company helps to cover usage costs.

Mobile Enterprise 360: On the security question you note: "Your [enterprises] need to protect data in another way besides locking down the full device." What are some of the first-step solutions to data vs. device security?

David Willis: Containerization is an option that is looking more attractive all the time. If you can be assured that apps sit in an encrypted container, synchronized securely into your cloud, then you don't worry as much about the make and model of the device itself.  The container becomes the platform. The problem so far is that containers have been poorly implemented from the user's perspective: they've been just too difficult to use and the user experience hasn't caught up.  If you constantly badger the user for security credentials and force them into an interface from a bygone era, they rebel.

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