BYOD: A bigger headache for IT bosses than Windows Metro?
Your survival guide to giving users what they want
Nothing elicits passionate debate quite like the suggestion that consumer technology is dictating workplace IT - with the exception of arguments over the Windows 8 Metro desktop, perhaps.
The debate on the consumerisation of IT is packed with business, legal and human resources headaches. Individual prejudices and experience colour approaches to the topic.
Like "cloud" and "virtualization" before it, the consumerisation of IT and BYOD concepts are somewhat intermingled. The traditionally accepted definition of the consumerisation of IT is when a disruptive technology - think smartphones, social media, etc - takes root in the consumer market first and then migrates into businesses.
This is a "bottom up" approach to technological adoption and it causes angst among managers; in preceding decades, new technologies typically started off in the business sphere and moved out to consumers.
The cheerleaders of consumerisation would have us believe that the rise of the iPhone means the complete upheaval of the more traditional model; a frequent bogus claim is that consumer technology will completely supplant tech targeted at the enterprise. In truth, plenty of technologies are still developed for business use first before migrating "down" to consumers. Precious few consumers have a deduplicating NAS, Big Data rig, or an IaaS setup at home.
Still, consumer technologies are infiltrating the workplace.
Considering how many new technologies are out there, consumerisation can cover everything from software to hardware to cloud services. BYOD is generally used to describe a narrow subset of consumerisation; users purchasing their own devices and using them for work purposes - with or without the sanction of IT. I include notebooks and even desktops within BYOD as, in my experience, demands by users strongly impact the deployment of these devices. For the purposes of this article, I will use BYOD to mean any user-selected device.
Another trend lumped under the consumerisation of IT is Apple in the enterprise. This is a growing thing; IBM alone has more than 30,000 Macbooks deployed. Companies ranging from my own consultancy to behemoths like NASA, Google, Intel and even schools have adopted heterogeneous network policies.
How the consumerisation of IT can affect your network
The fundamental issue presented by the consumerisation of IT is the expansion of platforms present in your company. It could be as simple as device models not being vetted by IT. It could mean hardware, software or services from companies other than preferred suppliers. If not handled properly, the result is IT upon which users are dependent but for which IT has no visibility, potentially no training and likely no spares in stock.
On the software side, we are talking about a potential explosion in software used by everyday users. The corporately mandated browser might be quietly replaced with Firefox or Chrome. With the adoption of new browsers comes the use of plug-ins and extensions.
Cloud services such as Teamviewer - designed to work around corporate firewalls - may also start showing up. Social networks, instant messaging, alternative office packages, and user experience improvement tools (such as uBit menu and Classic Shell) are all things that IT departments may have to contend with.
How will this impact me?
Talking to vendors or asking IT practitioners about the scope of consumerisation within their organization does not give you a true appreciation for what is in fact going on. Here you are seeing only the results of companies that have noticed, and acknowledged the consumerisation of IT. Attempting to gauge the scope of the problem at a macro level will be difficult; how do you take into account clandestine IT deployments you haven't become aware of?
The effect that consumerisation has on your organization will depend on how powerful the push from users is, and whether or not you choose to embrace it. If nobody is pushing for anything different than what is already on the table, then everybody wins and life is good. If, however, there is a deep rooted dissatisfaction with the hardware, software, and services provided by the IT dept, then clandestine deployments of unauthorized computing will inevitably start to appear.
Anecdotally, a significant percentage of clandestine IT is actually created by IT department workers themselves. Everything from stealth installations of Spiceworks to using remote connectivity tools to access a home computer or test lab are fairly common occurrences. In general, most organisations quietly ignore this, but when users start getting in on the game, suddenly there's a problem.
There are a lot more users than there are members of IT. Unlike IT, users probably don't have a true appreciation for the scope of the issues that their decisions can create. User-driven clandestine IT is also frequently invisible. The rest of IT knows about the secret Spiceworks server, even if they don't mention it to other departments. Users fearing reprisal are not going to speak out about using their iPad for work unless caught.
Re: @Trevor Pott "Learn to live with it, or leave." Is that kind of posting the way you normally..
@Arctic Fox: That wasn't a hostile post telling you off, sirrah. Explanation of the policy itself was not intended as an attack; I apologise if it was interpreted as such. It was merely a blunt explanation of Microsoft's policy.
"Learn to live with it, or leave." I chose "leave." Others are choosing "live with it."
I personally do believe you are being naive if you think for a second that "customer reaction" is going to mean a bent damn to Microsoft, but I'm not really going to hold that against you.
Some IT departments might deploy things like classic shell. Most won't, for the reasons I listed. The larger the org, the greater the likelihood they won't deploy it. Some will sit on Windows 7. The smaller the org, the more likely this is…up to a given point. There's a weird inflection point below which companies don't have IT guys. At this point, they will eat whatever is put in front of them; they have no choice, Windows 8 is what Best Buy sells.
Some of us are giving up on the MS ecosystem altogether. Joining the neckbeards on Linux, or the hipsters on Apple. For the overwhelming majority of end users, IT departments and so forth, however, Microsoft is all that exists, all that will exist and you will eat what is put in front of you and like it.
You have the same two choices I do, or anyone else does: "learn to live with it, or leave." I gather you don't like the binary option as presented. Gods know I don't, either. That said, in the real world, I do not honestly believe there is another alternative. Nothing you or I or even every single reader of The Register combined could do would make a big enough impact to even cause a Redmondian product developer to yawn.
They can lose every single one of us – and the companies we support – and not care. The only thing that matters to Redmont are CxOs. People who make the purchasing descisions for companies with thousands of seats and/or governments. They don't want to be supplying you Windows for your desktop, or your crappy little SME. You are a net drain on their bottom line, not a profit center.
The only people that matter at all to Redmond are the folks willing to stump up subscriptions – SA, preferably, but O365 and InTune will do – in huge volume. This is what Microsoft has bet the farm on, and it is the driving force of every single decision they have made for years.
That's why we're expendable. The kind of consumers who like Metrololo are the kinds of people who will buy Windows Xbox Live Gold Edition Subscriptions if Microsoft tosses a few episodes of The Guild in each month and allows them to stream the latest Halo over the interbutts.
Businesses with more money than sense will sign SA agreements because they are so deeply embedded in the Microsoft ecosystem that – like user of IBM mainframes – they aren't going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
So…the rest of us? Enthusiasts and power users and SMEs with capable techies and the ability to be discerning? We're the 80% of customers that bring in 20% of Microsoft's revenue. We're the long tail that Microsoft will gladly cut off if it can only increase the revenue from the other 20% by a few points. The costs of supporting us are astronomical, and we are never happy.
So Microsoft have stopped giving fucks. There are simply no fucks given whatsoever. Not by them, not by Apple, not by Canonical, nobody. Nobody gives any fucks about us at all. We have the technical competence to do use any vendor to accomplish our aims, and are just fickle enough to keep trying to play the various vendors against eachother. One by one they have all said the exact same thing:
Learn to live with it, or leave.
I can't – and won't – give you advice about which to choose. I will, however, tell you straight up that there are no other choices on the table. That you, or I, or any of the rest of us have a forum to have our voices heard is a fallacy. One that – quite frankly – most vendors don't even give lip service to any more.
It sucks, but what are you going to do about it? I know what I am going to do: I am going to ruthlessly abuse the contacts I've made as a writer for The Register to introduce the CEOs of various startups to one another. I am going to try to organise a conference of startup CEOs and build a fifth column within the tech industry. Instead of a handful of behemoths surrounded by a collection of intercompeting (and thus irrelevant) ankle biters, I am going to try my damnedest to organise the ankle biters into a serious threat.
I am going to expend every single iota of political capital I have ever obtained to get a few dozen startup CEOs in the same room and see if they can't hammer out the framework for something larger. I will most likely fail. Probably spectacularly and in a fashion that ensures I will never work in this industry again.
But I'm still going to try, because I can't learn to live with Microsoft's vision of the future, and Apple abandoned folk like me long ago. Google hasn't gotten its shit together and the open source world is a mess. I have no choice but to choose "leave," but in order to leave I first have to make a place to go.
If you've a better idea than that – or some concrete rationale you can use to demonstrate why you think regular joes have a snowball's chance in a neutron star of having our collective voices heard by the Microsofts or Apples of this world – I am all ears.
Because choosing "leave" is a truly exhausting amount of work.
You're forgetting the software
Applying end point security to a wider range of devices is the only approach other than total lockdown that I've seen tried. Like democracy, we do it because the alternatives are usually worse. I'm not sure where this fits in the 4 options above. You're not deploying desired devices, you're trying to secure devices deployed at you.
All this ignores the second major cause of BYOD: software. The only difference between enterprise software, in particular interface design, and bestiality, is that bestiality is at least half consensual. How long would Amazon have lasted if it looked and worked like the bastard chimeric spawn of Siebel and Oracle?
You don't sit looking at your device all day (fanbois excepted). You look at the %$&#% software. That's where the gulf between what we're used to at home and what we're forced to do at work yawns widest. Fix that, and maybe your users won't mind using <gasp> Acer.
A lot of the comments above strike me as the IT equivalent of King Canute - we don't like it so you can't have it. Well, if (and that is not yet certain) it makes economic sense for the business, then it's likely to happen, whether or not IT want it. There will be plenty of external consultancy firms telling the directors that they can do it, even if your "backwards IT guys" can't.
IT should be about finding how we can successfully, securely and efficiently embrace new ideas and technologies, not protect they way we do things now.
The tide comes in on it's own schedule, not ours.
Bollocks your organisations Domain
BYOD bad, mostly.
I see BYOD being favored by companies that want to eliminate hardware costs. I think it's painfully clear to everyone that it will turn around a bite management in the backside from the support costs. Management is often a bit tipsy after the 3 martini lunches to really think things through very well. They are just as bad in the morning from the hang over of yesterday's 8 martini dinner party.
It makes sense for IT departments to have differing levels of kit for different users. An engineer running complex simulations needs a Windows PC with some serious horsepower, a high end graphics card and maxed out RAM. A receptionist can get by with a basic machine to update her Facebook status, check email and type an occasional letter. The marketing and communication departments will mostly want Macs since that's where the bulk of creative software lives. Laptops should be only checked out to staff that really need to have a laptop, salespeople, field service techs, etc. Company supplied phones would also only be issued to personnel that work out of the office most of the time.
It makes much more sense for companies to provide the required tools and have them available for employees to use. If an employee drops dead or gets sacked, there will be a kitted out workspace ready for a replacement to take over and IT knows how to support it properly.
What's next? Bring your own office chair?