Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BYOD: CIOs Need to Fully Embrace Personal Devices

There has been a lot written about Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) along with both the challenges and opportunities they present for organizations.  Throughout all these discussions, one element is consistent: organizations need comprehensive and pragmatic strategies for embracing and managing these devices.

Based on recent conversations with people from organizations spanning multiple industries, it is clear to me that tablets (slates), as wells as other personal devices, are already well embedded into the organizations.  In some cases, this has been done in partnership with the IT organization.  However, in most it has been done under the radar by one or more groups.  These devices, personal or otherwise, may already provide critical capabilities to the organization.

A wise CIO, Rob Cohen, who I had the good fortune to work for, once told me “that in organizations, as in life, innovation generally occurs on the edges.”  Over the years, I have seen this observation validated time and time again, particularly in the case of the innovative application of new technology to a organization's challenges.

When the Apple Newton appeared in 1993, the pharmaceutical company I was working for became an earlier adopter.  The Newton became an important element in an effort to improve  the effectiveness of the field sales force.  With the addition of custom applications, the Newton had the capability to capture signatures “electronically” in a manner consistent with the tight regulations governing the industry.

Physicians would sign for drug samples and the Newton would "capture" their signature.  Unexpectedly, this act of signing via the Newton turned into a fantastic “access” tool.  Physicians who previously had been too busy to speak with a representative would linger and talk about the Newton.  This allowed for some spillover conversations regarding the pharmaceutical products.  Needless to say, it turned out to be a great investment.

The Newton became the first in a new generation of technologies which improved customer access based on an “enthrallment” factor.  The Newton, in many cases, precipitated and enhanced the quality of customer interaction.  With the rapid pace of technology development on the consumer side, enthrallment factors tend to be short lived.  Hence, ongoing investment is required to continue the flow of interesting and new offerings.

Over the years, I have seen this phenomena repeated many times, with different technology across multiple industries.  Other Newton like device, laptops with touchscreens, sophisticated presentation software, wireless capabilities, Smartphones, Video Conferencing, to name only a few.  In fact, it is happening right now with the iPad.  For example, Medtronic was on the leading edge with their announcement, in late 2010, of plans to purchase 4,500 iPads.  Initial plans focused their sales force using the iPads with product promotion: http://bit.ly/dESRlE Other uses included access to training material, corporate dashboards, and limited use laptop replacement for some users.  Since then, other organizations have followed including Boston Scientific.

Within organizations, employees and partners are using personal devices to enhance their own, and in turn, the organization’s effectives.  These tools include innovative applications to address a vast range of needs.

To my surprise, I still find CIOs holding off on incorporating  tablets and related portable device into their portfolios. Others have rejected the concept of BYOD and only support devices provided by the organization.   Reasons range form a desire for Apple and others to release “better” enterprise support tools to the question of security.  With respect to enterprise tools, concerns tend to be focused around provisioning of applications, particularly to external partners.  I find this all or nothing approach too inflexible in today’s world.

The security issues have been dealt with in many other places, so I will not expand further on that important point.  I will just say there are numerous and effective strategies for dealing with BYOD.  With respect to provisioning, I think that is manageable issue.

Apple does have some enterprise management tools and is striving to improve in this area.  Apple recently added to its growing collection of tools in this space, see http://bit.ly/GS5xko for details.  Check out http://bit.ly/GS2XFZ to see all their tools.  More importantly, there are alternatives to the iPad such as Samsung’s Flash enabled tablets.  Applications are plentiful via the Android Market (recently renamed “The Google Play Store”) which is growing rapidly.  Granted the store has some challenges, but it works.  For tablet users, take a look at “Tableside Market HD” application (http://bit.ly/GK2lII).  This app greatly increases the ease of shopping for tablet related applications.

Getting applications into the Google store is less complicated and restrictive than Apple’s store.  This is a strong point in favor of working with external partners.  And the support of Flash is something that should be carefully considered.

As for the distribution of applications in-house, there are tools to support IT departments.  I recommend taking a close look at: http://bit.ly/f2Tzqg in addition to the Apple Tools noted above.

Tablets, as well other portable devices, are here to stay.  In fact, a lot more of these devices are on the way.  CIOs need to make sure their IT departments are ahead of the power curve with respect to  tablets and other smart devices.  Selection needs to be carefully considered as the market has clearly demonstrate how quickly some devices can fail and wipe-out an organization's investment.  

Remember HP's TouchPad which was canceled last year?  Joining HP with their own massive failure is RIM; their PlayBook tablet went down in flames

Important issues including business continuity, disaster recovery, security, privacy, and regulatory compliance (e.g. SOX, FDA) may be at risk when ad-hoc devices are not fully considered.  It is critically important that CIOs proactively reach out to partners, internally as well as externally, to align plans. 

Time is running short and CIOs need to make sure they are ready to support the oncoming wave of new devices.



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