Too often, IT departments regard Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) computing in a negative light, as something they are being dragged into by individualistic end users. IT marketers don’t help the situation much, with rhetoric about how their company’s wares help IT cope with the scary challenges of BYOD.
I view BYOD not as a threat to established IT, but as an opportunity to generate more business value. BYOD benefits include bringing business processes physically closer to customers, ability to engage customers and stakeholders on their own terms, and to develop new modes of end-user engagement that re-energize ongoing business processes and often invent new ones.
First and foremost, BYOD represents an historic opportunity to extend IT services to new classes of users on an anytime, anywhere basis. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Organizations have invested billions of dollars in core IT services that run from ordinary email to enriched collaboration and messaging services, up through mission-critical ERP, database, CRM, and custom business applications. Why restrict access to these services to company premises, on company-provided and provisioned devices, and at regular business hours only? By restricting access, old-line IT hinders adoption, and guarantees suboptimal return on investment in IT infrastructure and services.
Extending high value IT services enables organizations to bring business processes closer to end customers. I know an insurance company that amazes its policyholders by enabling claims processors and sales agents to access mission-critical business process resources in the physical presence of a customer. A tree limb falls in a house? Claim processed as the agent surveys the damage in the presence of the now arbor-phobic homeowner. Update a business liability insurance policy? Done—before the agent and the policyholder finish their coffee at the local latté palace.
Engaging customers and stakeholders on their own terms is not really a bold new initiative any more. It’s simply expected. People no longer think it’s just tough luck that an organization doesn’t let them do business via their favored computing device, they simply disengage. The damage generated can be seemingly trivial—losing a $10 on-line order (but multiplied tens of thousands of times)—to much more profound—inadvertently convincing knowledge worker employees to take their creativity elsewhere.
BYOD really gets exciting when entrepreneur oriented IT decision makers recognize it as a new set of tools to build innovative business processes and engagement models. Think of a regional health services delivery organization where doctors, nurses, and caregivers have user identity-controlled any-time, any-device access to need-to-know patient information. Or retailers striving to emulate an “Apple Store” customer experience. Or a construction site where suppliers and contractors can arrive on-site and connect to project management and supply chain management systems on whatever smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device that best suits their needs.
But I will have to admit that BYOD remains a challenge. But the challenge is about how to leverage BYOD to change your business, outpace competitors, and delight stakeholders.
If you don’t do it, your competitors will.