What American Idol Tells Us about the BYOD Fad



Blue jeans. Memories. 90 percent of tech startups.

Is it time to add BYOD to the list of things that eventually fade?

Longtime technology journalist Daniel Robinson makes a compelling case for such a designation in a recent blog.

A couple of years ago, bring your own device (BYOD) was the hot topic of discussion. You could barely read any articles in the technology press without hearing about how BYOD was going to shake up business IT and free up workers, or something along those lines.

Citing supporting evidence gleaned from recent customer events hosted by Microsoft and BlackBerry, Robinson goes on to pronounce that the grand expectations for BYOD have largely gone unrealized and that the onetime can’t-miss mobile device management strategy is on the descent.

Hand of Fate

That BYOD may be the most recent phenomenon to suffer the rise-and-fall fate of other overhyped and oversaturated movements shouldn’t come as a shock. With the possible exception of a The Rolling Stones tour, nothing lasts forever.

After soaring ratings for nearly a decade, music-based American television shows have nosedived. Take American Idol, which spawned about a dozen imitators. It is now attracting about a quarter of the viewers who tuned in to a broadcast during the show’s heyday of a few years ago, according to The New York Times, which categorizes the genre as “over or in steep decline.”

The BYOD-American Idol analogy is actually not all that off-base. If BYOD is in decline, much of the backlash can be blamed on overexposure. Businesses that put few if any constraints on the number and type of personal devices that employees could use to access corporate information soon diverted IT from meaningful workforce mobilization initiatives to keeping pace with a high-speed conveyer belt of device activations and operating system upgrades.

IT was so busy reacting to the flood of personal devices that real strategic planning for reaping anywhere, anytime productivity gains were perpetually delayed.

BYOD Bubble

But four other factors also contributed to the steady deflation of the BYOD bubble:

  • On the end user side, demand for bringing in personal devices has dampened over the past couple of years in parallel with a slowdown in smartphone and tablet innovation. More and more employees can now live with their organizations’ technology refresh cycle.
  • At the same time, the spectrum of enterprise mobility management scenarios has significantly broadened. Corporate-Owned, Personally Enable (COPE) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) strategies, leveraging technology that carves out separate containers for work and personal use on a single device, are freeing employers from imposing business-only restrictions that force many employees to carry personal devices.
  • On the business side, many enterprises that embraced BYOD as a means of reducing capex and opex are encountering unforeseen costs. In his blog, Robinson quotes BlackBerry managing director for Europe Marcus Mueller on the failed cost-savings expectations of organizations related to BYOD.

“The idea was to save money while giving more choice to users, but what actually happened is that it became a nightmare, with lots of different devices with different versions of iOS and Android finding their way into organisations. It actually created more cost.”

  • Finally, increasing knowledge of the potential financial penalties resulting from privacy and compliance violations, security breaches and data leakage is moving CIOs and business leaders toward adopting mobility management strategies that provide a better balance of user satisfaction and risk mitigation than BYOD. This is illustrated in this recently released white paper from market research firm, Heavy Reading.

Strategic Diversity

While BYOD may not be the “flash in the pan” that Robinson paints it to be, it’s increasingly clear that all but the smallest businesses will need a diversity of mobile management scenarios to accommodate the needs of their entire workforces. As pointed out in this white paper from market research firm Ovum, which provides CIOs advice for matching mobility requirements with effective management scenarios, enterprise mobility management (EMM) is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

A finely tuned balance between user productivity and enterprise security is a business objective not likely to ebb in popularity anytime soon.


About Joe McGarvey

An Enterprise Mobility Strategist at BlackBerry, McGarvey has covered the enterprise and telecommunications industries for more than 20 years as both a journalist and analyst. He is best-known as a long-time principal analyst at leading market research firm Current Analysis. McGarvey has also been an analyst for Heavy Reading and an editor at several leading technology magazines.

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