Employees who bring their own devices to work don’t necessarily bring along cost savings for their companies.
At its core, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend is designed to make users more productive. But the mere act of connecting an iPhone, iPad or Android device to the corporate network won’t achieve that goal. Organizations need strategies, polices and technologies in place to enable users securely, but many jump into BYOD without considering those issues.
“They will rationalize it with the thought that this is going to save them money,” said Dan Croft, CEO of Mission Critical Wireless, LLC, a mobile solution provider in Lincolnshire, Ill.
It’s now a critical piece of IT that needs to be managed with significant resources.
Mission Critical Wireless
“Unfortunately, we counsel our clients that this is not going to be the case.”
The myth of BYOD cost savings
When considering BYOD cost savings, some organizations look only at devices. Shifting from corporate-issued BlackBerrys to employee-owned iOS and Android devices can seem like a no-brainer, or at least a cost-neutral proposition if an organization gives stipends to employees.
But that’s not always the case.
For example, corporate rates for bulk device purchases or group data plans are often cheaper than letting users buy their own individual devices and plans, Croft said.
The cost of mobile device management software can also escalate quickly, because vendors release new versions of their products much more frequently than traditional enterprise software, Croft said.
“It’s now a critical piece of IT that needs to be managed with significant resources,” he added. “It’s not a project orientation that has a start and a finish.”
Other, more unexpected costs can wreak havoc, especially when organizations haven’t assessed the potential effects BYOD could have on their existing infrastructure. A common problem is that lots of new devices come into the office, and the wireless network can’t handle the increased bandwidth demands, said Chris Bice, business development manager at Toranet Ltd., a networking and mobility solution provider in the U.K.
“They don’t think about the consequences of making that change on other areas,” Bice said.
BYOD’s strains aren’t limited to IT infrastructure, either. A U.K. hospital wanted to use iPhones to replace clinical instruments but ran into problems addressing the logistical and security considerations around keeping the devices charged all day, Bice said.
“The power issue isn’t one that occurred to me straight away, but it came up during a planning workshop,” he said.
How BYOD can save money
Despite these hidden costs and unintended consequences, BYOD can in fact save money. All it takes is significant planning, a limited scope and a little bit of luck.
Citrix Systems Inc. implemented a BYOD program internally after employees started bringing their own Mac laptops to work four years ago. The company calculated the total cost of ownership (TCO) for each user’s corporate-issued PC to be in the $2,500-to-$2,600 range over three years, then decided to offer users $2,100 stipends over three years to pay for their own devices. Today, 17% of the company’s 8,000 employees take advantage of the stipends to buy their own PCs or Macs.
The goal was for the BYOD program to make financial sense for Citrix and be cost-neutral for users, said Michael McKiernan, vice president of business technology.
“We don’t want to over-hype the savings, but it was about 15% of the TCO that we were seeing,” McKiernan said.
Another 10% of users bring their smartphones or tablets to work, but the company does not offer stipends for those devices.
“The math didn’t work for smartphones,” and tablets are a “supplemental device,” McKiernan said.
The BYOD program also worked because Citrix already had the infrastructure in place to support it, thanks to the company’s focus on desktop virtualization, application delivery and remote-access technologies.
“We were in a very fortunate position because we had already virtualized all of our applications,” McKiernan said.
Beyond BYOD cost savings
Even if BYOD doesn’t save money, it brings other benefits for IT, end users and the business as a whole.
For one, users take better care of their devices when they’re personally invested in them, which can improve security and reduce support costs.
“We’ve actually found that we have fewer issues with the employee devices than we did with the corporate devices,” McKiernan said.
A successful BYOD program also taps into the interest that business users have in consumer devices, Croft said.
“People don’t have the same burning passion about, ‘Do I want a Dell laptop or do I want an HP laptop?’” he said.