Cisco: BYOD Makes Financial Sense for Companies, Employees

By Jeffrey Burt

BYOD may be a management and security headache for some organizations, but if done right, it can lead to significant productivity, efficiency and financial gains, according to Cisco Systems officials.

In addition, the more strategic an organization's bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives are, the greater the benefits that are gained.

Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group conducted a study to determine the financial impact of BYOD for businesses, surveying 2,415 mobile users in 18 industries and six countries. The study found that BYOD—fueled by employees' desires to use their own mobile devices for work and to access the applications and cloud services they need—is a worldwide trend that will only grow.

In addition, the benefits to organizations are significant, and how a BYOD strategy is implemented is crucial.

"BYOD is already a big phenomenon, and it's growing substantially," Jeff Loucks, senior manager of the Internet Business Solutions Group, told eWEEK.

BYOD was kicked off by Apple's introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and gained momentum with the arrival of tablets. In recent years, notebook PCs also have come into the picture, with employees increasingly deciding to use their own systems for work, Loucks said.

"Laptops have really come to the fore as an important part of BYOD," he said.

Initial enterprise resistance—over worries about management and the security of networks and data—is giving way to acceptance and growing adoption. The trend also has had tremendous impact on businesses, which have to find ways to securely manage employee devices and to ensure a good user experience. Networking and security vendors continue to roll out solutions designed to enable organizations to easily and securely adopt BYOD.

Gartner analysts earlier this month said that by 2017, 38 percent of businesses will no longer supply their workers with devices, opting for a full BYOD plan instead.

"BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades," David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction and reducing or avoiding costs."

For Cisco, the BYOD trend hits many of its major business areas, from networking to collaboration to mobility. The company also has its own in-house BYOD initiatives in place.

And for good reason. The trend will only grow, and the potential benefits are huge, Loucks said.

According to Cisco's study, this year there will be 198 million BYOD devices in the six countries covered—the United States, the U.K., Germany, China, Brazil and India. By 2016, that number will balloon to 405 million, with 1.3 BYOD devices per person.

Those employees say BYOD enables them to get more work done and to create a better work-life balance. Many in the survey also said they use their own devices because they need them for work, and their company doesn't supply them. And they're willing to pay for the privilege: Employees who use their own devices pay an average of $965 per year for them, plus another $734 for a data plan. Eighty-one percent use smartphones, another 56 percent use laptops, and 37 percent use their own laptops.

Across the six countries in the survey, employees gained an average of 37 extra minutes per week using their own devices, with the United States having the highest average at 81 minutes, and Germany the lowest, at four minutes. Those gains came through such factors as greater efficiency, new ways to work and better collaboration, though downtime and distractions were drags, Loucks said.

For organizations, the challenge is developing an implementation plan that will return the biggest benefits, he said. Eighty-nine percent of organizations now allow workers to use their own devices for work, but most companies take a more reactive approach—enabling basic BYOD as demanded and looking to push back at the trend or contain it. That has helped to some extent. In the United States, organizations that use the reactive approach can see $950 in value annually for each mobile employee, according to Cisco's numbers.

That figure jumps to $3,150 for each mobile employee in an organization that creates what Loucks called a comprehensive plan for BYOD. That means being proactive in developing such capabilities as being able to monitor and remotely wipe corporate data from the mobile devices, to automatically enforce corporate BYOD policies, to enable employees to move seamlessly between networks and to offer collaboration tools that can be used on all devices.

Given the possible savings, implementing a comprehensive BYOD plan will quickly pay for itself, Loucks said. There are costs to implementing a strategic BYOD plan, he said, "but if you can make it cost-effective, it really becomes a question of 'why not?'"

This article was originally published on 2013-05-22