What Is Going Wrong With BYOD?

The Bring Your Own Device movement was supposed to make employees more productive while saving companies money. But a funny thing is happening on the way to mobile nirvana: Companies aren't doing it, according to a new study by CompTIA.

For the past couple of years, tech pundits have been pounding the Bring Your Own Device drumbeat to such a fast and lively rhythm that you'd think just about everyone was dancing to it.

Some industry watchers have even predicted the coming of a BYOD mandate, whereby employers would require employees to provide their own smartphones and perhaps tablets as a condition of employment.

But is reality matching the hype? Not really.

CompTIA's spring survey of 400 IT and business executives shed light on what it calls the sorry state of BYOD: Depending on the size of the company, anywhere from 39 percent to 51 percent of respondents are not doing BYOD at all. Nada. Zip.

[Related: 12 Big BYOD Predictions for 2014 ]

"BYOD is popular, but there are still a lot of companies at least attempting to control all mobile device deployment and management," says Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA. "The number of companies not doing BYOD is a lot higher than you'd think given all the hype around the term."

Sure, the tech industry's hype cycle often runs ahead of reality, but a slowdown in BYOD adoption seems especially startling. Gartner, for instance, gave BYOD its stamp of approval by predicting that half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes by 2017.

Tech pros with BYOD-related skills are in hot demand. BYOD resonates with coveted millennial workers and their blended work-life lifestyle. And a swath of CIOs told CIO.com that they're jumping on the BYOD bandwagon.

[Related: BYOD Became the 'New Normal' in 2013]

Moreover, BYOD has spawned high-value companies in the hot mobile device management space, such as MobileIron, which raised $100 million in its initial public offering this week, and Airwatch, which was acquired by VMware earlier this year for $1.54 billion. The MDM market is expected to hit nearly $4 billion by 2019.

BYOD Reality Check From CompTIA

Then there's the CompTIA survey that flies in the face of conventional wisdom, not to mention billions of dollars and lofty predictions, showing BYOD shunned by one out of two companies.

What's behind this harsh BYOD reality check? If you stop and think about all the troubles early BYOD adopters have faced over the last couple of years, the CompTIA survey findings begin to make sense. Companies watching these early adopters stumble along are no doubt thinking twice about BYOD.

Let us count the BYOD blunders:

  1. BYOD was supposed to get IT out of the mobile device purchasing and deployment game. This was suppose to save companies wads of cash. Some companies, such as VMware, claimed BYOD saved them millions of dollars.

    Aberdeen Group and others quickly exposed the shakiness of this benefit. BYOD is riddled with hidden costs, such as expense report processing, management (including MDM software), employees gaming expenses, zombie phones attacking the mobile budget, messy conversion of phone service liability, among other issues. All tallied, BYOD might end up costing more than corporate-owned devices. Either way, BYOD's promise of cost savings is no longer a sure thing.

  2. BYOD was supposed to make a happier workforce. After all, an employee who used to carry around two phones -- a company phone and a personal phone -- could now do everything on a single phone. Companies that adopted BYOD reported an increase in employee satisfaction on annual surveys.

    Then the lawyers got involved. In a push to safeguard corporate data on BYOD phones and tablets, companies began drafting BYOD user policies chock full of legalese favoring a company's right to monitor, access, review and disclose company or other data on a mobile device.

    An employee's expectations of privacy with respect to that device fell by the wayside. Some employees who didn't report a lost BYOD phone right away were fired for violating the draconian BYOD policy. Many employees have become wary of participating in a BYOD program, which, ironically, was originally created to make life easier for the employee.

  3. BYOD was supposed to make a more productive workforce. Having a phone with them at all times, including after-hours, on weekends and vacations, means the employee will do more work, right?

    [Related: BYOD Widening Employee-Employer Trust Gap, Survey Finds]

    This kind of higher productivity is hard, if not impossible, to measure. While mobility and apps can increase worker productivity, the BYOD spin on productivity isn't nearly as clear. CompTIA's survey delivered yet another bomb: Less than half of companies that offer BYOD feel that it contributes to employees' productivity.

  4. BYOD was supposed to make life easier for IT. Then came BYOD's security and compliance issues that blindsided CIOs. Perhaps most of all, risk of data loss has kept many companies on the fence. Recently, Centrify surveyed more than 500 employees at mid-to-large companies and found nearly half have more than six third-party apps on their BYODs, such as personal cloud storage repositories, and more than 15 percent have had their personal account or password compromised.

With so many loaded guns leveled at BYOD -- myriad complexities, hidden costs, security risk, privacy concerns and so few benefits -- it's no wonder companies are balking. So where does BYOD go from here? Are we nearing a high-water mark for BYOD adoption?

"I don't know if we're going to see the numbers move dramatically over the next few years," CompTIA's Robinson says.

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

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