The Case for BYOD

As more organizations accept the fact that their workforce is increasingly mobile, they continue to open up more systems to mobile access, including learning systems. Our most recent study on mobile learning found that at least 73% of organizations are providing some sort of mobile interaction with learning. In the face of all of this mobile access, companies are faced with a dilemma: issue standard devices, or tell their employees, “Bring your own device. (BYOD).”

Prior to about 2007, the solution was simple. Give ‘em all a Blackberry. Of course, back then, the only thing people were accessing on their devices was e-mail. Things are clearly different now, and there is no clear-cut solution to meet every company’s mobile needs.

However, our study found that more than three quarters of organizations still hand out devices to at least some employees. Guess what? More than half issue a Blackberry. This goes to show how strong Blackberry’s reputation for corporate security is, and how terrified companies are of new technology. Blackberry’s current global smartphone market share is 0.6%.

The most commonly issued devices are iPhones and iPads. This is because organizations like standardization, and even though we’re on iPhone #5, they all look and behave about the same way. Androids are another story. They come in a seeming endless array of styles and versions from an equally endless number of manufacturers, all running an essentially “open” operating system. This is corporate security kryptonite. This would explain why, according to our research, Android phones are issued by only 39% of companies, versus 60% handing out iPhones, even though Android has 85% of global market share.

But let’s get realistic now. About 56% of all people in the U.S. are already carrying a smartphone in their pocket right now. There are 12 countries with even higher penetration. The percentage is likely much higher among your company’s employee population. Do we really think a rational solution is to expect employees to either replace their devices of choice, or carry around two devices?

And what are the costs of issuing devices? It goes far beyond purchasing the actual devices and service plans. Remember the push among schools to put a laptop in every child’s hands? This article does a great job of illustrating the unforeseen consequences that come what is truly a well-intentioned initiative. Essentially, the costs of repairing and maintaining the laptops, including updating them every two years, is often too much to bear. Granted your company probably doesn’t employ a workforce of careless teenagers, but many of the issues are relevant. And handsets become obsolete on a schedule that is arguably shorter than laptops.

When companies do issue devices, they are most likely handing them to their executives anyway. Our study found that 62% of companies give mobile devices to executives. Less than 30% say they give devices to individual contributors. It would appear, then, that 70% of companies find themselves in a BYOD environment whether they know it or not.

Companies need to figure out ways to solve whatever issues they may be having around access via personal mobile device, whether it is security, standards, control, etc. Smartphone penetration Is not going to diminish, or even level off, for the foreseeable future. The longer organizations wait, the harder it will be to catch up.

David Wentworth, Senior Learning  Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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David Wentworth



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