One of the comments that surprised me on twitter Tuesday was about bring your own device (BYOD) and the fact that it is an anathema to productivity. It was specifically pointed out that unmanaged BYOD is a productivity black hole. While being a nice thought it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
— Paul Calento (@pcalento) August 21, 2012
The author was very clear in a later tweet that he really meant unmanaged BYOD as in unmanaged devices. Paraphrasing, if the business lacks the tools, planning, and policy to manage devices then productivity will be flushed like a dead goldfish down the crapper. The sad thing is that this view is repeated all the time and has joined the ranks of the most repeated FUD by C levels and below. Now let’s be fair, there are definitely some information security issues that occur when you don’t protect your data, but leaving that aside. Productivity has about as much to do with BYOD as golf clubs do with baseball.
When you start looking at why users want to go with bring your own device (this isn’t through the corporate rosy glasses of savings, mind you) it is all about productivity. They aren’t using their own device to access Facebook or Twitter just because they are at work; they’ve already been doing that for years. Before that it was sending text messages and playing brick breaker. Users are actually using their own devices because they want to be productive. They don’t like the idea of walking in to work each morning and being 57 emails behind in their inbox. They want to make sure that they can finish that paper they have to do before the deadline on their own time. They don’t want to have to worry about being late to their kid’s soccer game because they have to write one last paragraph in word, create one last PowerPoint slide, or pivot one last table in excel (huge fan of pivot tables….just kidding). They want to be able to do their work when it makes sense for them to do it.
Yet, we still hear that letting people bring their own device will kill their productivity. They are going to be doing status updates on Facebook all day long and sending pictures of their lunch on Instagram while tweeting about the latest water cooler gossip. The shame of this type of FUD is that people have been doing that already. Before there were mobile phones they used to bring in iPods and radios to listen to the afternoon ballgame or their favorite music. They would hang out by the water cooler, grab a smoke and then head off to their 2-hour lunch. The same people who abused the rules in the past before technology made it simpler are the same people who are going to abuse them now. It doesn’t matter whether it is their own device or not. A business sets expectations when they hire people and encourages a culture where people are productive and handles it when they are not, smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t change any of that.
The whole reason you look to manage anything with BYOD is for the reason we decided to ignore earlier; you want to keep your intellectual property safe. You want to make sure that your data is secure in transit and at rest when people use it on any device. If you are managing devices because you’re worried about that proverbial black hole of productivity, you have already failed. It’s a crisis of culture, not common sense.