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Case for BYOD Emerges from the Fog

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A fundamental question surrounding implementation of BYOD programs is determining the business case for the concept.

As with any process change, organizations are seeking clarity on efficiencies, savings and return on investment. Observers say establishing a business case for BYOD clearly is a work in progress that will mean different things for different organizations.

With IT departments facing scrutiny on how they deploy capital resources for hardware and software implementations and upgrades, the initial reaction to BYOD was that it offered an opportunity to reduce costs and stretch budgets. But that view is changing as organizations begin to see benefits that are worth quantifying in ways other than in dollars and cents, says Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy for device vendor MobileIron.

A December 2011 Forrester Research survey found that 74 percent of smartphones used at work were being chosen by employees rather than employers, and 48 percent of smartphones at work were selected without regard to IT support. As a result, the mindset that BYOD is a cost-savings measure “is actually starting to change,” Rege says. “People are saying now that’s the completely wrong way to look at it.”

Observers now say the business case for BYOD revolves around less-obvious benefits, including increasing employee satisfaction and productivity, enhancing the organization’s brand and accelerating technology adoption throughout the enterprise.

Stores are typically staffed by younger, tech-savvy associates who are seldom without their smart devices, says Adam Stein, senior director of mobile product marketing for SAP AG. “When people talk about BYOD, it really gets into the fact that [these employees] are going to have a lot of affinity for their applications,” he says. And by allowing them to use their personal devices at work, retailers “can help your retention as well.”

Often, Stein says, the devices purchased (and used) by employees serve to enhance the organization’s technology posture.

The general expectation with BYOD is that retailers will reimburse employees for at least some of their service costs. This results in a net positive for the organization because the stipend is a fixed, predictable cost to the enterprise, Rege says. Negotiating with carriers for group discounts can help generate savings in those areas.

The prospect of the help desk being overwhelmed by BYOD issues was an early concern for many retailers – one that hasn’t truly materialized, Rege says: Users tend to go to the help desk less frequently seeking support for their own devices than they did with corporate-owned equipment. Because it is their personal device, users are more willing to do their own troubleshooting and prefer not to cede it to someone else, he says.

“The user becomes more self sufficient [and] because these are consumer devices, they are built with the notion that they shouldn’t require support,” Rege says.