Pots of Gold

by Brian Katz on November 8, 2012 · 5 comments

As I was looking through Twitter tonight, I spotted a tweet from Simon Bramfitt where he declared that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is innovation. While I think I understand where he was coming from, the statement itself is just plain wrong. It doesn’t help that everyone else in the world is looking through the same pair of glasses that he is and seeing BYOD as an innovation.


I have declared before that BYOD is only an ownership issue, we’re really talking about who pays for and owns the device and the set of rules that have to be adjusted for when an enterprise doesn’t own a device. Yet, it doesn’t stop all the various rags from trumpeting the latest innovation to hit the workplace is BYOD. Not that these businesses don’t have some corporate owned devices or that they had a reason to go BYOD.

The fact is that many people like to trumpet BYOD as an innovation so they can sell it to their employees. This is despite the fact that all they want to do in most cases is save money. There are a few organizations that see BYOD as a way to allow people to use devices that they are comfortable with and yet they really don’t want to be the ones paying for those devices. While it is great for morale in most cases, the truth be told, most organizations don’t end up saving money. They spend a lot of time and effort trying to cobble programs together to support BYOD initiatives that haven’t been well thought out.

The problem with looking at BYOD as innovation is that you’ve completely missed the boat as far as your business is concerned and you’re just plain doing it wrong. BYOD initiatives allow people to use their own devices to get their work done via the parameters that you set to allow them to do so. At no point did the business ask for this or necessarily want this as part of their strategy. It is usually in response to an IT department clamping down via policy on what’s allowed and employees rebelling by finding ways around the policy, even if that means they could be fired. They are just looking to find ways to do their work that allows them to be more flexible.

True innovation is when the business looks to enable their users to be productive on whatever device they want to use. It’s not by letting the user bring in their own device. Businesses are trying to find new ways to streamline processes and make it easier for their workers to get their job done. They innovate by turning monolithic crapplications into small focused apps that enable their employees to get more work done, in less time, while providing higher quality results. Sorry to say but BYOD doesn’t do that, nor does COPE (Corporate owned, personally enabled). The endpoints themselves, while they may be innovative, providing new ways for people to interact with information, mean absolutely nothing if the business doesn’t take advantage of those methods.

Innovation happens when the business partners with IT so that they share a common goal and vision and work together to achieve those results. IT innovates by changing their culture from one of a siloed “no” organization into one that partners with the business and looks to enable them and their users. They move from becoming gatekeepers to enablers of change. A particular device or technology such as cloud or big data, become tools that IT use to help the business achieve their goals. Innovations are when processes and workflows disappear from conscious thought and become second nature as the user goes about their job. They stop thinking about what device they are using, the app isn’t so important. They are having real time integrated experiences that enable them to achieve their goals for the day while allowing them the flexibility to live their life.

BYOD is no more an innovation than the rainbow farting unicorns I talked about last week are. It’s how you harness those unicorns to create the rainbows so you can find the pots of gold, which matters.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Colin Steele November 8, 2012 at 10:49 am

The point you make illustrates the importance of IT and the business side having a strong relationship with each other. Technology alone won’t make users more productive and effective if the right business strategies and processes aren’t in place. Likewise, business strategies and processes won’t achieve their goals without the right technology in place. Innovation in one area needs innovation in the other.


Walter Paley November 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I like Colin’s comment… also overlooked is the culture itself. Even if business execs and IT get on the same page, ultimately it is the workforce that must take advantage of the opportunity. The solutions must fit the company, the business unit and the people.


Dan Woods November 8, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Focusing on BYOD maintains the back office mentality that IT must shed. It has nothing to do with innovation, that is supporting the front office and making the business better. See http://www.forbes.com/sites/danwoods/2012/11/08/dont-let-byod-to-distract-from-the-true-potential-of-mobile-apps/ for a expanded presentation of this argument.


SBramfitt November 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Always happy to spur you to action Brian

You said

“True innovation is when the business looks to enable their users to be productive on whatever device they want to use”

From my perspective any organization that embraces BYOD must, MUST, take that approach. BYOD may mean “bring your own device”, but unless it is followed by “and we will enable you to be productive on it” the whole notion is a waste of time.

However I stand by the direction of my short response. For anyone to suggest that BYOD is an obstacle to innovation is to fail to understand what BYOD is.




Elmer Bott 3rd November 10, 2012 at 8:31 am

Decent article as usual with your expected 80-grit analysis.. Though I feel you missed a really good topic of conversation (instead of picking on Simon for his misunderstandings) regarding Nathan King’s realization that many folks are letting the “rainbow unicorn farts” of BYOD get in the way of true Innovation and a Big Business person is noticing the trend. Would love to see you turn Nathan’s comment into a Post about the positives of getting beyond the negatives and allowing/enabling the many things you talk about near the end of this post. You can stand on a soap box but if nothing is learned nothing is gained…Though massaging with 2000-grit may be out of BMKatz’s wheelhouse…. 😉


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