VMware Going 'All In' with BYOD

From social networks to seven-digit savings to employee angst, VMware's internal BYOD program for smartphones has it all. Now the company is looking to expand BYOD to laptops and tablets.

Fri, May 11, 2012

CIO — In most bring-your-own-device plans, employees are the ones bugging management and IT to support their personal devices for work. But VMware took a much different tack when launching its BYOD program late last year: All 6,000 employees in the U.S. must use their personal smartphones for work.

VMware adopted an aggressive 90-day window for employees to make the transition, which included a looming cut-off date when company-owned smartphones would stop working. "We went all-in" with BYOD for phones, says VMware CIO Mark Egan.

VMware's big bet on BYOD was far from a sure thing. Egan had to rely on a new-fangled enterprise social network to quell employee anger over having to spend their own money on something VMware used to pay for. Egan was also hoping to save money with BYOD, a return on investment that often backfires.

Today, Egan says his goals have been met. But even he is quick to point out that this is only the first stage of his BYOD journey. He went after BYOD smartphones first. Now he plans to expand BYOD this quarter to include laptops and tablets, and so he's wrestling with an entirely new class of complex issues.

But Egan is used to pressure. It was pressure that brought BYOD to VMware in the first place.

The Big, Bad BYOD Mandate

Like many CIOs, Egan found himself in a tight spot that only BYOD had a shot at solving. Pressure was coming from employees claiming they can be more productive using technology of their choosing. Yet a tight IT budget simply couldn't support a huge swath of devices.

"I was getting what I'll call 'feedback' from my business partners that I wasn't offering a broad enough list of devices, as well as getting 'feedback' from our CFO that I was spending too much," Egan says. "I'm losing on both sides."

In the fourth quarter of last year, VMware aggressively rolled out a BYOD program aimed solely at mobile phones. The plan called for 6,000 employees to transition their existing phones from company-liability to personal-liability. They did this by taking ownership of the phone itself and calling the wireless carrier to change over liability.

Another option: They could pay out of pocket for any phone that supports BES or ActiveSync.

BYOD phones tapping into the network fall under VMware's acceptable use policy, giving VMware rights over the device. One is the right to wipe the device, which can lead to loss of personal data. Such arrangements favor the company and can lead to murky legal wrangling.

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