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BYOD will cost a packet, warn experts

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Enterprise mobility experts have warned IT managers not to enter bring your own device (BYOD) programs with cost reduction in mind, arguing that application development and support costs can quickly get out of hand if not strictly controlled from the start.

IDC VP Tim Dillon told attendees at the analyst’s Asia Pacific Enterprise Mobility Conference 2012 in Hong Kong that around 40 per cent of the region’s workforce, or nearly 840 million employees, could be termed ‘mobile workers’.

However, while following the consumerisation of IT trend and allowing the use of personal devices at work can boost productivity and improve staff satisfaction, IT managers should not be looking at BYOD programs as a cost cutting exercise, he argued.

First there are the data and connectivity costs of such devices, which will be billed back to work and could end up higher than previously centralised corporate mobile set-ups, then there are hidden support costs, said Dillon.

“Many organisations say they won’t support these devices but please don’t take a no-support policy,” he warned.

“Everyone knows someone in the IT team and despite the belief that IT doesn’t help, many of these people will help. Support costs will escalate if not factored in from the start.”

Dillon emphasised the importance of IT bosses formulating holistic and proactive BYOD policies based around the rule that the employee gets to choose the device, from a shortlist, but that it is enterprise-supported.

Ted Suen, head of IT at subway firm MTR Corporation, added that IT teams also need to be fairly prescriptive about what platform and software version the device is running to avoid getting into “big trouble” on the support front.

He also pointed to the fragmented and dynamic mobile ecosystem as providing a particular technical challenge for IT.

“The strategy I suggest you think about and the one we're following at MTR is not putting all your legacy applications onto the mobile platform,” Suen said. “Select the business processes which have good business value for going mobile.”

Apps dealing with things like workflow, executive information and KPI dashboards probably fit the bill here, he explained.

Other key elements which could increase cost and complexity and should be factored in from the start include on-going app support, maintenance and development.

Not only is the lifecycle of mobile apps significantly shorter than that of legacy enterprise applications but costs are pushed higher if in-house or outsourced developers have to write for different versions or forks of Android, argued Dillon.

Even iOS apps may need to be re-written and optimised for the different screen sizes of iPhone, iPad and now the latest, higher res, fondleslab.

“For every change you need to make in Android it costs $50,000 in developer time,” he said.

“The cost and skills shortage is leading app developers to look at HTML5. I think it will become almost like a third OS.” ®

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