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Three IT consumerization mistakes with bring-your-own-device requests

As CIOs grapple with a major influx of bring-your-own-device requests, Jonathan Hassell reveals the three biggest mistakes of consumerization.

IT consumerization is old news. For years, workers have been clamoring to bring their own mobile devices to work and connect them to business services. Unfortunately, many CIOs are still making big mistakes when initially setting up their bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. As more users bring their devices to work, these common consumerization mistakes take their toll on the midmarket organization.

Jonathan HassellJonathan Hassell,
technology expert

What are the top three mistakes? Let's take a look.

1. IT consumerization mistake: No support plan in place. This is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome when gaining buy-in from your leadership on implementing BYOD and IT consumerization policies, and it's the most important. Users see their own devices as extensions of themselves. They almost go through withdrawal when their phones aren't working (there's a reason BlackBerry devices were called CrackBerrys for the longest time: Users reported being addicted to them).

IT consumerization solution: CIOs simply must have some type of support system in place for when user devices stop syncing, develop software problems, start acting strangely and so on. In the past, IT has been known to say, "not our device, not our problem," but in the era of consumerization, this attitude simply won't cut it.

In addition, consider the opportunity to interact with users and their smartphone devices as a chance to reassert best practices for device configuration, as well as educate users. If iPhone users comes to your team with problems, your team can discuss the company's mobile VPN and how it should be used. If users come to IT with a Windows Phone, the team can explain the important subset of ActiveSync policies. If Android users have problems, your team can talk about best practices when tethering. Every interaction and every touch point is a place where you can better apply your policies and show users secure, efficient, effective ways to get their work done.

IT has been known to say, 'not our device, not our problem,' but in the era of consumerization, this attitude simply won't cut it.

2. IT consumerization mistake: Death by a thousand reimbursements. Some midmarket companies deal with bring-your-own-device finances by insisting users pay for their own service and related expenses, then file for reimbursement. Assume it takes users 15 minutes to complete a simple one-item expense report (that's a generous estimate, by the way). Multiply the number of users on your BYOD program by .25. That's how many man-hours per month are wasted just in filing for expense reimbursements. That doesn't even count approver-level time, accounting time, processing time and other costs.

IT consumerization solution: Instead, work out an agreement with a major telecommunications carrier. In the U.S., AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint all have programs that work with even the smallest businesses to accomplish centralized billing direct to the corporation. This saves time and complexity and gives your business further control and flexibility over the costs of your mobile phone program.

A closely related corollary: Don't make your users itemize their work minutes or their work data charges. With the volume discounts that are available for multiple accounts and the ability to pool minutes with all of your accounts, it's nearly certain the time it takes your employees to itemize calls will cost the business more than simply paying the bill for their work phones in the first place. Of course, this recommendation doesn't have to include text messages or international calls -- set reasonable limits there.

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3. IT consumerization mistake: The BYOD free-for-all. For a while, the BYOD phenomenon was limited to basically the iPhone -- people simply wanted to bring their iOS devices, including iPads, into work and connect them. But now devices have proliferated. The door to consumerization cracked open an inch and now comes the stampede. There are several different iOS devices around: Some users are looking at the Samsung Galaxy S3, while others want to connect defunct HP TouchPads they bought on clearance for $99 last year. Microsoft will have a tablet out in October, which will have still another set of configuration specifics.

IT consumerization solution: You have to scope your BYOD support. It's problematic to write all of these consumer devices off but, at the same time, there's an explosion of new devices. You have to budget your resources. Consider supporting iOS, ActiveSync-based Microsoft devices, BlackBerry phones and a couple of specific Android devices -- perhaps a couple of phones and a tablet. Choose the most popular devices in each cohort and work out support policies therein, then publish an approved list to everyone in your organization.

As you've developed your own bring-your-own-device programs, what consumerization mistakes have you made? What hasn't worked well with your own consumerization policies, and what have you done to rectify that? Talk back to us in the comments.

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