The Problem with BYOD projects

iPhone 4S

I see lots of people talking about and asking about hardware being “prepared for BYOD” and/or “BYOD ready”. Most of the time they’re talking about Wireless Access Points(WAPs) or other similar items of infrastructure.

In a lot of ways, as long as you stick to a reputable vendor, what make of WAP you buy is the least difficult and least interesting part of the project – you wouldn’t focus too heavily on what brand of switch your desktops were wired into as part of a project to give everyone access to a new corporate intranet site from the desktop – you’d spend more time checking that the site’s CMS system worked with your standard browser and thinking about what content users should be able to get to, and how they’d get to it. Same here…

I’d be careful about using phrases like “BYOD ready” in a technical discussion and I’d be wary of letting people say it to you unchallenged. I’d be especially wary of a sales vendor who said their hardware or software was “BYOD ready” as part of their sales pitch.

You need to define with the people who are asking you to make this happen what exactly you’re both talking about when you talk about being “prepared for BYOD”.

  1. Is there a standard spec for what a D that someone BYOs has to be capable of before you will support it (e.g. are you going to require NAP, 802.1x, etc?).How will you communicate those requirements to your users? What’s going to happen when Bill from accounts turns up with a device that doesn’t support your standard spec but which happens to contain the only copy of some data vital to closing out the end of month accounting process?What happens if someone steals Bill’s nice new device after some confidential financial data has just been copied onto it?
  2. Is there a service level agreement that specifies how far you’ll have to go to support devices? What training will be in place to ensure that your 1st line support people will be able to cope when people start bringing devices to them for support that they’ve never seen before?What happens if you spec a network to work with “Shiny v1” today and someone brings in a nice new “Shiny v2” the following month and it doesn’t work. Is that your problem or the user’s problem?
  3. What are the stakeholders hoping to achieve from this?There should be a clear goal for this project that goes beyond “Everyone else in the CEO’s golf foursome said their company was doing ‘BYOD’ so now we are too”. Even if that is how the project got started you need to go beyond that and set some objectives for how a BYOD project can improve your business.

These statements are not designed to put you off doing a BYOD project and I’m not writing this article because I’m “against” BYOD somehow. These are just examples of the sort of questions you need to ask yourself before undertaking such a project.

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