CIO snapshot: Adopting a BYOD policy, one phone at a time

A community reinvestment trust fund CIO sets a prudent BYOD policy, but with an eye to the future.

The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), an investor group focused on neighborhood revitalization, was a 100% BlackBerry shop when Barry Porozni joined in 2010 as CIO. Almost 100%, that is. "The only people using non-BlackBerry smartphones for email and calendaring were a couple of people in IT," he recalled.

The whole thing with BYOD is to let the person choose what that 'D' is.

Barry Porozni,
CIO, The Reinvestment Fund

Porozni heard the grumbling -- coming in particular from the organization's more mobile members -- about having to carry two devices. In response, he laid the groundwork for a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy. "If you are expected to be mobile to do your job and can carry one fewer device to do that, you should be able to," he said.

Still, TRF was under contract and paying a monthly fee to BlackBerry. The bulk of TRF's revenue comes from federally mandated bank loans and donations -- any BYOD policy had to be executed prudently. Porozni essentially made the move one phone at a time, with BlackBerry as his guide.

As their company-issued BlackBerrys expired, veteran employees were allowed to buy their own phones. They also could bequeath their BlackBerry to a new hire. "We instituted a policy that said if you start work here and don't tell us any differently, you will get a BlackBerry. If you come with your own iPhone or Android, you can get connected to email," Porozni said. That means that TRF doesn't buy consumer devices for anyone. "And for people who use their personal devices for email and calendaring, we do not pay for connectivity," he said. TRF is now down to 12 licensed BlackBerry users among its approximately 80 smartphone and tablet users.

IT does incur "a small indirect cost" for the personal devices, because it uses a mobile device management product (from Mobility-as-a-Service provider Fiberlink Inc., based in Blue Bell, Penn.) to secure email. "One thing BlackBerry did very well is secure the transmission, ensuring email, calendaring and functionality to work while giving the ability to wipe the device if something bad happened," Porozni said.

BYOD policy choices hinder mobile device virtualization

In choosing Fiberlink, Porozni looked at a number of approaches, including virtualizing mobile devices. But in 2010, the BYOD policy choices were limited for running multiple operating systems on one mobile device. Two years later he remains unconvinced the market has matured enough to make the investment, noting that even now VMware Inc.'s Horizon Mobile offering at present works only on Android devices. "I don't know any organizations saying, 'Sure you can bring any smartphone in you want, as long as it is an Android -- or as long as it's an iPhone,'" he said. "The whole thing with BYOD is to let the person choose what that D is." Moreover, Porozni had concerns about security and performance issues, at least with a Type 2 hypervisor, which relies on a device's underlying operating system to work.

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His reservations jibe with the views of several experts we interviewed about using mobile device virtualization. "Until the vendor -- VMware or whoever -- has a solution that is pretty much ubiquitous with mobile devices used in business, I'm afraid mobile device virtualization is not going to go far," said Chris Ward, solutions architect at systems integrator GreenPages Technology Solutions in Kittery, Maine.

CIOs need to look carefully at the usability issue when they consider mobile device virtualization, recommends Christian Kane, analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Kane questions whether a so-called dual persona setup (one for work and one for personal use) is even feasible, given how intertwined the two domains are now. What happens when the boss is also a business partner and a friend? "Are you recreating the same problem where you had carrying around two devices by requiring users to switch back and forth?" he asked.

Still, Porozni is intrigued by a mobile virtualization solution that separates the work from the personal space for mobile devices. Already, the use cases at TRF have amped up from email and calendaring. Now he's questioning whether to install the firm's new ERP system on smartphones. He foresees a day quite soon when a BYOD policy and a smartphone hooked up to a docking station -- with keyboard and monitor -- could become standard operating protocol: "For a lot of people in an organization, that might be all they need," he said.

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