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Why BYOD management is a moving target

Mixing work and personal usage on one device is a fundamental challenge that technology can only do so much to solve. Decide how to handle BYOD, or if you can nix it altogether.

Not long after the smartphone came out, BYOD was the center of attention in end-user computing.

Various EUC technologies, such as mobile device management, mobile app management and identity management, came out to deal with mobile devices and apps and were heralded as solutions for BYOD management.

But BYOD (personally owned devices) and COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) devices are still deeply challenging a decade after the first BYOD management solutions appeared.

Despite the variety of products available, mixing work and personal usage on a device is fundamentally difficult. BYOD isn't a single technical problem to solve; rather, it is a constantly changing situation that IT must deal with.

BYOD management is fundamentally hard

With the arrival of modern mobile devices, IT departments had to deal with personal devices, apps and data on a scale never seen before. In the past, dealing with personal usage may have meant blocking websites like HomeStarRunner.com or desktop apps like PointCast. But mobile devices are much more personal, and IT and users often have conflicting goals, which can't all be solved with technology.

In addition, BYOD is constantly evolving. New generations of employees are always entering the workforce, and the gig economy and increased external collaboration are also changing the nature of work.

Consumer trends keep shifting, too. For example, people used to jailbreak and root their phones to get functionality that is now built into mobile operating systems, reducing the need for workarounds. On the other hand, apps like Fortnite not being available on Google Play could lead to a rise in risky practices like installing apps from third-party stores.

It doesn't pay to be dogmatic about whether or not to allow BYOD, and it's best to be pragmatic.

Most importantly, attitudes toward privacy and large corporations continue to evolve, and many consumers are more privacy-conscious.

Lastly, the devices themselves change over time. Android Enterprise and soon iOS User Enrollment will have new APIs for BYOD management with unified endpoint management technology.

What is the landscape of BYOD management?

By now, it should be clear that BYOD management is a moving target. Companies that created a BYOD policy in the early 2010s may find that it's now out of date. Instead, organizations need to revisit policies on a yearly basis.

It's also clear that it doesn't pay to be dogmatic about whether or not to allow BYOD, and it's best to be pragmatic.

Often, businesses have to deal with BYOD no matter what. There are many scenarios in the extended enterprise that involve providing access to corporate data on devices that may have personal and other data on them, including contractors, partners and gig workers.

At the same time, there are many places where it's best to just provide single-purpose corporate devices or COPE devices with very limited personalization options. If the corporate data is so sensitive that letting it onto a BYOD device takes extraordinary measures and causes worry, it might just be a situation where the company should say no to BYOD. Mobile devices are much cheaper in bulk, and for a few hundred dollars per device, the company can avoid the liability issues.

Many users don't want to do BYOD, either, whether it's a matter of privacy concerns or just the desire to be able to unplug from work on weekends and evenings. Anecdotally, just as many people carry two phones today as they did a decade ago -- it's just that one of them is no longer a BlackBerry.

Finally, companies have to address mobility no matter what. Regardless of whether BYOD is allowed, every single company relies on mobility more than ever before. While mobile users can often support themselves, there are many reasons why IT should ensure they have visibility and some form of management for smartphones and tablets that access corporate data.

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