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BYOD - A new behavior norm

Jordan Whitmarsh on ‎12-03-2013 09:33 AM

There is a concept in social dynamics called a tipping point—the point at which a previously rare behavior within a group is rapidly and dramatically adopted to establish a new collective norm. Like a behavior epidemic. Tipping points explain some things we in the IT business should be aware of and must respond to. We’ve seen this before with email and cell phones. Now it’s happening with bring-your-own-device (BYOD).


Where it is possible to trip up with BYOD is thinking of it as a technology—something IT must enable or provide. In fact, BYOD is a behavior—the act of employees using their personally-owned devices to access corporate applications and data. And this behavior is occurring—at the tipping point level—whether we in IT enable and support it or not. If you believe you are preventing access by disallowing unapproved connections to the corporate network, then you’re overlooking the effects of employees downloading data to their device via email or file sync services like Dropbox, as just one example. InfoWorld recently reported on a Forrester study of these services. Forrester finds what users find: their business value is so great they are being widely used outside IT’s sphere of control.


Enterprise IT must now determine how to respond—embrace, block, control or ignore? Ignoring the problem doesn’t relieve IT of its obligations to protect and secure data and to ensure governance of IT processes, so the issues must be confronted. And as we’ve noted, it’s increasingly difficult to block a behavior that is fast becoming the collective norm.

But each organization must determine its response, because that determines what technology you will need, how you will deploy it and what processes you must develop or enhance.


Attempting to block BYOD behavior, for example, forces it underground into channels IT doesn’t see or control, so if you choose that response, you will need processes and tools to detect that. On the other hand, embracing user BYOD behavior means you must ensure a service delivery chain from corporate data and applications, through private and public networks, to the user device. And that delivery chain must provide the security and governance IT is committed to provide.


Our challenge is that enabling BYOD and assuring this secure delivery chain doesn’t fit neatly into existing IT silos: networking, desktop computing, and application development and management, for example. It spans them all, so BYOD programs must engage every part of the IT organization and must coordinate their efforts to enable the response we choose.


This can be a challenge. So we’ve been helping HP customers work through these issues to come up with new strategies and an actionable roadmap in our Mobility Transformation Experience Workshop (TEW). These one-day workshops for senior cross-domain stakeholders, leverage a unique HP methodology that starts with your own situation to gain clarity on mobility concepts. We identify the initiatives that can work for your business and rapidly lay the right foundations for effective transformation.  (Read my previous blog about TEW.)


As time goes on we’ll see more and more people reaching for their personal smartphone or tablet to conduct company business. I plan to talk more about getting the business value from BYOD in a future blog. But for now one thing is clear: if you don’t have a measured response and a plan to enable it, BYOD will happen anyway, and with unpredictable results.



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Jordan Whitmarsh is Worldwide Mobility Lead—HP Technology Services (TS) Network Consulting. Jordan owns the worldwide mobility portfolio for TS Network Consulting and is a OneHP Mobility ambassador. His expertise centers on mobility strategy, client and applications virtualization, and enterprise mobility management technologies.

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Jordan Whitmarsh

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