September 25, 2012, 11:26 AM — Only a few hundred employees had opted into Ingram Micro's newly crafted "Bring Your Own Device" smartphone program when the finance department saw an opportunity to blow it up. The corporate contract with AT&T was coming to a close, and Ingram Micro chose not to renew.
Instead, the global distributor of technology products with 16,000 employees abruptly stopped issuing corporate BlackBerry devices, essentially transforming BYOD from a voluntary program to a mandated one. Employees were told to dip into their pockets and get a phone for both personal and business use.
"The expiration of the contracts became the moment when the business said we're going to institutionalize this across the whole group," says Ingram Micro CIO Mario Leone, adding, "I honestly expected several years for the uptake on this, but BYOD has gone a lot faster and a lot deeper."
Ingram Micro started down the road to BYOD smartphones last year with a pilot program, which picked up steam this year and culminated into a mandate for U.S. employees this summer. BYOD smartphones aren't just for Americans, either. Ingram Micro is ramping up similar programs in its operations in Europe and Asia. The goal is to convert completely to BYOD smartphones on a global scale.
"Over the next 12 months or so, you'll see an uptake that will bring [BYOD smartphones] to the same level as in the U.S., which is 100%," Leone says.
BYOD smartphones are poised for dramatic growth, especially with last week's arrival of the iPhone 5. Apple sold more than five million iPhone 5's in the first three days--a new iPhone sales record. You can bet many employees will want to hook up their new iPhone 5 to the corporate network.
A lot of companies are jumping on the BYOD smartphone bandwagon. VMware, for instance, enacted a BYOD smartphone mandate that is similar to Ingram Micro's. BYOD benefits range from increased worker productivity to cost savings, although the idea that BYOD leads to cost savings has stirred controversy. (For more on this, check out BYOD: If You Think You're Saving Money, Think Again.)
It should be noted that BYOD smartphones are far ahead of other devices, such as BYOD iPads. Ingram Micro has BYOD iPad and Mac programs, although these programs are not mandated. In some cases, enterprise iPad rollouts fall flat. For instance, when the city of Minneapolis began supporting iPads, adoption was surprisingly slow.