Ownership Issues

by Brian Katz on May 23, 2013 · 5 comments

The lead on just about every story these days has something to do with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). It’s either a story about how many companies allow you to bring your own device, how CIOs are struggling with BYOD, or the fact that within 3 years most companies will require you to BYOD. That being the lead, it doesn’t take long for the talks and articles to spring up about why BYOD is such an issue or what the pitfalls of BYOD are. The real problem in all of this is that everyone is off the mark. BYOD is only an issue because people refuse to realize that it’s just of ownership, nothing more and nothing less.

nutcrackerBYOD is pretty clear. It’s bringing your own device. It isn’t the company’s device or your best friends device, it’s your device and you own it. Due to the fact that you own the device, you have certain rights to what is on the device and what you can do with the device. This is the crux of every issue that comes with most BYOD programs.

You have to realize that most companies gravitate towards BYOD programs because they believe they can save money. This was a $200 expense that they were spending every 2 years to provide their employees with smartphones and why spend the money if you can get your employee to do it instead. When all you look at is the hardware outlay it can make a lot of sense. That being said, it tends to ignore many of the economic gains, especially with large companies, that can be had by pooling minutes and data plans to make sure that monthly spends go down.

There’s a lot more to BYOD than saving money and many companies are starting to realize this. If they let their employees use their own devices or at the very least choose the device they want to use they find that their employees are more likely to actually use the devices as tools. They tend to work more hours in a week and spend more time than a non-mobile employee working each year. The fact is no matter which way they decide to go, BYOD or COPE (Corporate Owned, Personal enabled), they still need to enable their user by providing them access to the organization’s ecosystems to be productive.

There is no difference between these two models. When you get started with your mobile program you have to create policy. The goal of your program is to help your users achieve their business goals better. You want a mobile strategy that fits your business strategy. So, you start with the notion of enabling your users and you write policy on how they should go about it. You build solutions that allow people to use their devices to be flexible and agile. You look at your business processes and you find new ways to approach them through mobile that allow people to be more efficient and productive. You create apps that are designed to work with their devices, not crapplications that are based upon legacy thinking. You create a culture of responsible and eager people who become more productive and efficient because you’ve worked directly with them and focused on their needs (FUN principle – Focus on the User Needs) and at the same time you met the business requirements.

Wait a second you say, what about all the issues that everyone is talking about with BYOD. Those are all issues based upon ownership. You need to, when you design your processes, realize that you can’t rely on the legacy thinking of owning the device anymore. You have to build solutions that can live in a world where the user may own the device. You may not have rights to wipe their whole device. You may not even be allowed to look at what they do on the device if it isn’t work related. The good news is that there are plenty of tools out there that allow you to isolate all of your business data from their personal data. Those tools can let you wipe that data from their device without touching all their photos and private emails. There are ways to backup your data and protect it so you can handle legal investigations and meet the needs of legal, security and human resources.

You still need to spell out the differences in your policy, but instead of an entire 20 pages devoted to BYOD and a strategy that drives people away from using their own devices, you enable them to use them to meet their needs. To be fair, this all changes in other parts of the world, such as Europe, where privacy laws can dictate that if you put data on a user’s device they now own that data. There are ways to work around this too but it does become a little more complicated.

In the end, when you begin to realize that what you really have is an ownership issue, you can start to crack the real nuts of mobility. Your goal is to figure out how to enable your users to be more productive in doing their jobs. The only reason most of them started bringing their own devices in the first place was because you didn’t provide them. Your users just want to get their work done, let’s stop arguing about ownership and find ways to help them do it.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

p9ng May 29, 2013 at 11:10 am

Great article! Now I don’t feel so lonely :-).

We evaluated BYOD and ended up in the COPE camp. We left behind the power of Blackberry BES and went with outsourced Exchange and Activesync. (Caveat – we are non-profit, with minimal IP issues.)

There was no reduction in cost in my estimates, but a lot of employees with outdated contact information…


Christopher Rath May 30, 2013 at 7:50 am

One additional point: companies are forced to deal with BYOD because even if a no BYOD model is chosen, employees will still bring their own device. A firm that ignores employee-owned devices is unnecessarily exposing itself to risk as employees use those devices in the corporate environment.


TheNASDGuy May 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm

We tried using MDM and other solutions but were usurped by the head of sales. Forced with the nuclear option of blocking everything or allowing unfettered access to continue, we chose the latter with one caveat. The lawyers and insurance people came in. The BYOD have to carry liability insurance equal to the value of the data (that would be $50 million in our case… and we are a small-ish company) and they have to sign a contract that has sever financial penalties for data leaks or compliance failures.

We have already sued one former salesman who tied to sell the client data list to a competitor (we took his house and are trying to have him put in jail) and another got a virus that may have leaked customer financial data. That former employee is now currently working out a deal with a federal regulator on just how much money it’s going to be.

All in all, I’m enjoying it. I no longer have to worry about much of the compliance and regulatory issues related to doing business in the US.

Make no mistake, BYOD may have started with self entitled children who didn’t want to follow procedures… er, I mean, freedom seeking agile developers who just needed less red tape to become more productive… but it is has become a holy grail of business: the ability to shift blame and responsibility for regulatory and legal responsibility to the individual employee.



Jordan June 6, 2013 at 9:45 am

If it’s implemented proactively, it can be done properly. You need to find an MDM/MAM solution!


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