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Choose Your Own Mobile Adventure: An Alternative to BYOD

By / Sep 13, 2016 (JuralMin/Pixabay/Associations Now Illustration)

A few years on from the peak of the BYOD trend, a working alternative that some IT departments might prefer is gaining steam. So what the heck is CYOD, and does it make sense for your association?

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes are popular with employees, but can introduce security headaches (looking at you, Pokémon Go). Command-and-control schemes are frustrating for end users, who might find themselves stuck with a device they don’t want.

Is there room for a little common ground?

New research from International Data Corporation (IDC) seems to suggest that enterprise-level corporate IT execs see a third way. With many organizations struggling to manage BYOD on their end, a number of IT shops are looking to offer “choose-your-own-device” (CYOD), which allows users to pick from a variety of devices from different manufacturers.

While users may not get a choice of their mobile provider with this strategy, it’s nonetheless an approach that maintains the greatest benefit of BYOD (end users get the device they want), while allowing IT departments to focus on security concerns.

Another factor? Costs are harder to manage with BYOD. CYOD offers flexibility to users while allowing IT departments to maintain a degree of control.

“Cost savings and security risk mitigation are the biggest drivers of mobile device deployment strategies,” IDC Research Analyst Bryan Bassett said in a news release. “But with 48 percent of enterprises not seeing improvement in their BYO cost savings and 30 percent citing security problems with mobile app deployments, IT management must inspect strategies for improvements.”

The survey found that 74 percent of enterprise organizations polled were either already offering CYOD options or had one in the works.

Admittedly, IDC has been beating the drum of CYOD for a while—way back in 2013, the firm’s Asia-Pacific arm argued that 2014 would be the year of CYOD.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but one thing is that if BYOD doesn’t have a great ROI, there isn’t one,” IDC Asia-Pacific’s Head of Telecoms And Mobility Charles Anderson said that year, according to ZDNet.

CYOD in Action

This setup sounds interesting and potentially attractive for some organizations. But what about real-world examples?

Try the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on for size. Last year, the federal agency’s CIO announced it would embrace CYOD as part of an agencywide “sprint,” and in April the organization put the new policy into effect.

Todd Simpson, CIO of the FDA, described the CYOD strategy as one that allows it to better support those platforms through custom-application offerings.

“We’ve deployed iPhones; we’ve deployed Android phones; we’ve deployed Apple Watches. We’re basically bringing smartphones to our customers,” Simpson told Meritalk earlier this year. “We’re previewing applications, for example, that will help us navigate across the FDA campus. This campus is enormous. We’re going to build applications like that that are only going to work within the perimeter of the FDA, so there’s not a worry of people knowing our secrets from the outside.”

This approach also allows the agency to evaluate the technology being suggested by employees before it’s fully adopted.

Where CYOD Makes Sense

As an end user, I’m not convinced that BYOD is nearly as much of a security risk as some critics believe. If security is an issue, proper training efforts can be just as useful as locking the devices down. And I think, ultimately, your employees deserve trust. BYOD is a great way of validating that trust.

But I do think that the CYOD approach makes sense for association IT departments that have particularly tight standards, along the lines of those at federal agencies who find themselves having to vet the technology that they rely on.

It also gets around the risks of relying on a single device. Earlier this year, another arm of government—the U.S. Senate—highlighted the problems with that strategy, when the chamber was caught off guard by BlackBerry’s decision to stop supporting its platform.

Clearly, the iPhone won’t go away tomorrow, but things happen—as proven by Samsung’s recent safety recall of the Galaxy Note 7, a situation so high-profile that airlines are telling passengers not to use the phones during the flight—it’s probably a good idea for your IT department to not put its stock into a single horse when it comes to managing mobile hardware.

If you don’t want to embrace BYOD, embrace CYOD. It makes a good middle ground.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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