Who Pays for BYOD? You Already Did

 [originally published in Enterprise Conversation, a UBM/DeusM publication ]

You hear the term “BYOD” spoken of as though it were the touchstone of a technological revolution, a reflection of the rapid and revolutionary change in telecommunications.  The “consumerization of IT” is said to be felt most profoundly by those tasked with provisioning the smartphones and tablets of thousands of employees, with hundreds of varying choices.  Mobile Device Management is becoming, or has already become, the next-generation PBX.

That, or it’s something your employer can now write off, perhaps to offset the new health insurance mandate.  As part of its second annual State of BYOD Report, Good Technology polled 98 of its enterprise customers to gauge the changes in BYOD adoption among businesses in the course of one year.

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It’s this pie chart that hits you square in the face.  Even though 98 customers may be a small sample size, among those respondent companies that do have BYOD policies already in place, a staggering 93 percent expect their employees to end up paying some service costs, perhaps after stipends and compensation.  A full 50 percent don’t reimburse their employees whatsoever.

“Ten or fifteen years ago, it was quite customary for employers to reimburse employees for dial-up Internet, and then DSL and later broadband service at home, with the justification that there was productivity, real work being done at their home,” says Kerry MacLennan, Good Technology’s senior director of professional services.  She continues:

That’s really not a very common practice any more for any employer that I’m aware of.  That’s because, as home Internet service and high-speed broadband service became ubiquitous at home and became adopted as a consumer choice, there really wasn’t any incremental costs to the employee to connect to the corporate network and get e-mail at home.  We’re in that same transition zone for mobility that we were ten years ago with home Internet.

In my conversation with Good Technology, spokespersons cautioned me not to interpret this trend in terms of businesses pushing costs onto their employees.  Rather, as MacLennan illustrates here, it’s a case of businesses leveraging the power of dollars already spent for services that it no longer makes much business or even cultural sense to replicate.  “Cost savings are often one of the top objectives,” says MacLennan, “but not typically the big driver.”

Allen Spence, Good’s VP for worldwide professional services, adds:

A huge number of companies’ employees already have a smartphone, and they already have a data plan in the 2 GB range.  Across all of our users, 98-plus percent use less than 3 MB of data per month.  So [businesses] aren’t pushing costs out to [employees].  Companies are taking advantage of something their employees are already doing.  Because it folds into these massive data plans that smartphone users already have, [in most cases] there’s really not an additional cost being incurred.

Prior to the annexation of home broadband, the technology wave that was described with the moniker “consumerization” was the PC revolution of the 1980s.  Back then, small businesses were deemed the drivers, the risk-takers, and the early adopters, with larger corporations lagging behind, waiting for others to set the trends and incur the expenses involved with perfecting software.  Today, as Good’s executives describe it to me, the BYOD trend is being led by the opposite end of the train.  Big businesses are the early adopters, I’m told, urged forward by C-level executives who are insisting their iPads and Galaxy S devices get added to the network in 24 hours.

Among respondent companies with an employee base above 10,000, some 45 percent already have BYOD policies in place.  For those segments with fewer than 10,000 employees, the average was 11 percent.

Granted, most of Good’s respondents were larger companies, I was told; and the market segment with the highest BYOD adoption rate — finance and insurance — ranked highest in the survey as well.  But as Good’s Spence explains, there’s a new driving force behind the finance segment’s push that’s both surprising and underappreciated:

They had the biggest motivation due to regulation to secure their corporate communication.  It used to be RIM and BlackBerry, but when they could get that same security on more desirable devices, they moved there faster than a logistics or manufacturing company.  They had that intense data protection requirement, but they also had a demand for new, cool phones that they were already carrying anyway.  [Finance] were the early adopters in a big way.