by Jen A. Miller

BYOD – the tech revolution that wasn’t

Aug 20, 2015

Once upon a time, BYOD and the consumerization of IT was held up as a paragon of productivity and cost savings for enterprises that embraced the concept. Now? Not so much… What happened?

Budding technology trends start the same way: X is going to cause a revolution. Be a game changer. Disrupt the company, the industry, the world – maybe even the universe. 

And then reality sets in. Sure, X might change the lives of some people at some companies, but far from all, and then business bumps along per usual. 

So goes – perhaps – the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, a trend where employees are allowed to bring their own laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets and so on to work instead of their employer buying those machines and maintaining the hardware and infrastructure to support it. With cloud-based systems, this should be a no brainer. Companies would save money, and employees would use what they love. Win-win, right? 

Not quite. 

According to a study by CompTIA, an IT industry trade association, companies are moving away from BYOD as the primary device method. In 2015, 53 percent of companies surveyed says they used no BYOD. That’s a fairly significant jump from the 34 percent BYOD-free in 2013. 

[Related: Why enterprises are embracing rogue IT] 

“It’s not the rapid expansion into this area that it was a couple of years ago,” says Erika Van Noort, senior director of strategic customer enablement at Softchoice. “The [companies] that really wanted to go there went there quickly.” 

The study found that only a small percentage of companies – usually small companies – chose to go all-in on BYOD and completely avoid buying devices. 

Legal and financial issues with BYOD

When BYOD was introduced, Van Noort says many companies jumped before looking. “A lot of companies don’t actually think through the policy,” she says. 

And there are a lot of issues that must be thought through, says Chris Boman, partner at the Irvine, Cali. office of Fisher & Phillips LLP

An employee using a personal device for work is a legal gray area for a lot of reasons. First, does the employee need to be compensated for the work done on the phone? According to California labor code 20802, employers are obligated to reimburse employees for business expenses they incur in the normal course and scope of their duties. 

“A clear example of this would be mileage,” Boman says. The difference there is that there’s already an IRS rate for that reimbursement. There isn’t anything for phone use. 

BYOD can also blur the line between work time and non-work time, and whether or not employees need to be compensated for it. “For nonexempt employees, if they are using their phone for work purposes after hours or before hours or lunch, you have an off-the-clock issue,” he says. 

What rights employers have over a device when the employee owns it is also murky. “With work technology or business technology, the employer typically retains the right to inspect and monitor your devices,” Boman says. “How do you do that when the employee is providing the technology? It’s the erosion of employer rights or encroachment on an employee’s privacy.” 

[Related: The BYOD debate is not over] 

And then there’s what happens if your company is subject to regulations for discovery during legislation – known as ESI, for electronically store information. Under ESI, employers have an obligation to preserve electronic data, information and documents. “When you have a personal phone used for business and zip drive and thumb drive and laptop and tablet, the employer is obligated to corral all of those and preserve all the evidence on them,” he says. “BYOD creates an ESI risk because of the administrative nightmare of trying to identify all the mediums that may exist.” 


Van Noort says that many companies are finding that they can pursue the same mobility goals of many BYOD initiatives by still giving their employees the mobile device they use for work, but letting the employee chose from a few options as to what that device will be. 

That’s created its own trend with a catchy title: Chose Your Own Device (CYOD). According to Van Noort, organizations are saying to employees “it doesn’t have to be a PC. We can bring in iOS and as a result, maybe we’ll own the device, but we’ll offer different platforms from which the employee can work in order to make them happy,” she says. 

This also hits on another initial appeal of BYOD: making work devices attractive and comfortable for younger workers, especially workers who grew up in an iOS world. “There’s a generation coming along – they don’t even know how to operate a PC,” she says. 

Let’s call it the corporatization of the consumerization of IT.