Do bring your own device (BYOD) programs that allow or encourage users to bring their personal iPhones, iPads, and other devices into the workplace reduce costs or do they drive costs up because of the need for mobile management, training, and technical support?
That fundamental question has been the source of a lot of debate, numerous studies, and a lot of sleepless nights for CIOs and IT managers.
The truth is that this is a question that’s difficult, if not impossible, to answer definitively. There are many variables involved in developing and implementing a BYOD policy or program.
What platforms will you support? How tech-savvy are the employees within your organization? What tactics will you take in terms of managing and securing devices and/or data on them? Will you be developing your own in-house apps and/or deploying apps from public source like Apple’s App Store or Google Play? Which internal systems will you make available to mobile devices when they are connected to your corporate network? What will you make available for devices outside your network? How much training and support will you offer users?
Those are a just a handful of variables and yet each one skews costs up or down.
MobileIron’s EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) marketing director Nigel Hawthorn took up this thorny question in a recent blog post. Drawing on MobileIron’s experience with many mobile and BYOD deployments, he describes two general deployments (one fairly basic and one fairly advanced) and offers an estimate of how many devices a single full-time IT staff member can realistically manage.
If you are setting up email, passcode, and wi-fi configs only on a single OS, then you are probably able to handle more than 10,000 devices per person because once that is set up, there is little if any management required after the initial device registration.
If you are delivering a full-service BYOD program rollout with email communication, end-user training, certificates, apps, complex group/role-based access, on multi-OS platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), etc. then the number of devices per IT FTE will likely come down to something below 5,000 devices per person, but again that will level off after the initial program rollout and device enrollment is completed.
While your mileage may vary, his examples offer a very general set of guidance. Also interesting is that he points out that staffing and support needs are likely to be highest around the actual deployment and that once that deployment is up and running, the needs will level off.
Although Hawthorn doesn’t mention it, another important factor is the company (or multiple companies) that you’re partnering with when it comes to mobility. Whether you’re doing BYOD, COPE, or a more traditional and rigid BlackBerry-style deployment, having a partner that has solid experiences to back them up is going to make everything from the initial planning to roll out to ongoing support work much better. That can mean working closely with the mobile management vendor(s) of your choice or it can mean hiring outside consultants and contractors or even hiring a full-time mobility specialist who will develop your mobile strategy, implement the needed components of it, and stay on to ensure ongoing success.
Ultimately, the planning is what determine how the execution will go. Working with someone who has seen multiple BYOD and mobile roll outs can be a key asset that shouldn’t be overlooked. Working with the right parter might generate more up-front costs, but reduce ongoing expenses in the log run.