Bring Your Own Tech: 9 Things IT Needs To Know

Kraft, Whirlpool, Motorola Solutions and other employers are pioneering BYOT policies to drive productivity and reduce costs. Here's why your employees want this and what you need to do to make it happen.

Mon, September 26, 2011

CIO — BYOT, or bring your own technology, is more than code for “my CEO bought an iPad.” BYOT refers to a strategy for letting employees choose and purchase the devices they want to use to do their jobs—everything from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets. The machines belong to the employees, who take them along with them if they leave the company.

CIOs who enact BYOT policies are plowing new ground in the consumerization of IT. They seek to cut costs, perhaps — though whether the policy creates hard savings is debatable — and change the way IT and non-IT staff interact. They also expect to improve the productivity of both the IT staff—newly freed from some support tasks—and colleagues who should require less technical training if they use the same machines at home and at work.

Plus, BYOT can boost morale by acknowledging the growing demand from employees to use the technology they like over what IT wants to support, says Leslie Jones, CIO of Motorola Solutions, which since 2008 has reimbursed employees for one personal smartphone and allowed them to use the devices at work. BYOT is a “great acknowledgement of reality,” she says.

Some CIOs, however, say BYOT is a nonstarter: an empty idea that saves no money but brings potentially expensive security and control problems to corporate IT. Companies that offer full-fledged BYOT programs are still in the minority. In an exclusive survey of 476 IT leaders, we found that 69 percent don’t allow employees to buy their own equipment for work while just 24 percent do.

Research Report: Exclusive BYOT Survey Data from CIO magazine

Yet of the 131 companies that allow BYOT, most only suggest which products employees should use, leaving the decision up to the individuals. Just 22 percent require employees to choose devices from a specific list. Another 38 percent let employees pick any devices they want.

Those intrepid CIOs face complex decisions about technology and policy, as well as challenges measuring the true value of BYOT. No one wants to create a BYOT program larded with rules and overhead; it’s supposed to simplify work life, after all. Plus, employees are pushing for freedom of choice as consumer devices outpace corporate ones in features and usability. Your mobile workers are tired of carrying around different machines for work and personal use. Whirlpool, for example, doesn’t want employees to feel they are taking a step down the technology ladder when they come to work, compared to the technology they use at home, says Daren Fairfield, a director in global information systems at the $18.4 billion appliance maker.

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