The BYOD Question

May 23, 2013
The proliferation of mobile device access to business systems has lead many companies to opt for a BYOD (bring your own device) approach to save money. Research now shows that idea to be flawed.

Do you use a tablet PC or smartphone to do your job? Chances are you answered that question affirmatively. Here’s another question: Did you pay for your own device with your company reimbursing you for some portion of your monthly bill or did your company purchase the device for you as well as pay the monthly bill? While there is wide variation on company policy on this question, more companies are opting to have employees buy their own device and cover partial reimbursement of monthly costs in an effort to save money. The problem is that this strategy may be misguided.

The core issue with the BYOD approach, according to Nucleus Research, is two-fold. First, the cost of the mobile device is typically less than 10 percent of a company’s annual mobility spend. Second, the remaining 90 percent of a company’s mobility spend tends to increase in a BYOD environment. 

BYOD turns out not to be an effective cost saving strategy for companies largely due to individual employees’ lack of buying power on voice and data costs, mobile help desk costs and mobility management costs. More problematic is the issue of cost estimation in cases where companies only reimburse a portion of the monthly usage costs. And that’s not even getting into the time costs associated with individuals filing for reimbursement and the associated approval process time requirement.

Just taking a quick look at some of the costs associated with BYOD highlights the potential for increased cost issues that can easily eliminate perceived savings. For example:

• Voice and data costs in an optimized enterprise environment are close to that a typical user, i.e., about $65 per month. But this is the result of bulk discounts coupled with increased capabilities, such as international roaming. Although the monthly rates may be the same, the typical user gets far fewer features for the money.

• Mobility management for a company entails costs management, content management, device management, application management as well as governance, risk management and compliance. If your company is part of what is considered a critical or highly regulated industry, the potential impact of a lost or stolen device can be huge. Especially considering that governmental bodies will tend to blame the company before the individual regardless of company policy on mobile devices. As an example, in 2012, a healthcare provider had to pay a $1.5 million settlement to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the loss of one personal laptop for potential violations of HIPAA.

According to Nucleus Research, the big winners in the push for BYOD are not the companies who practice it, but the carriers. The biggest losers are those responsible for supporting the technology strategy as well as those responsible for risk and compliance.

The BYOD strategy has “been driven by fluffy productivity estimates lacking credible data,” according the Nucleus Research report. “Instead of dealing with the might of corporate procurement, bargaining power is diluted back to the individual employee who lacks the time, knowledge and buying power to drive a hard bargain.”

Ultimately the question comes down to the issue of mobile device need for the job. Nucleus Research offers this simple question: If the value of mobile technology can't justify a corporate investment, then why does the employee need it at all?

I have not yet encountered the BYOD strategy yet in manufacturing, but am curious to know if Automation World readers have experienced it. If so, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts on the strategy.

See some of the heated discussions created by this post.

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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