Getting upper management involved in your BYOD program

To make your BYOD program a success, make sure that your end users' bosses aren't left out of the picture.

When it comes to a BYOD program, there are a lot of issues around how to administer, structure, enforce and otherwise "sell" the program to the employees that it will affect. However, you don't hear all that much discussion about how to communicate and get support for the program from management and staff.

At the most basic level, there are really only two types of bring your own devices (BYOD). There's BYOD that's almost exclusively centered on phones and tablets -- intended to address people that want to bring their favorite Android phone or iPad to work. Then there's legit, all-encompassing BYOD where employees select, purchase and use a device of their own choosing at the desktop, laptop and mobile device level. That's the type of program I want to discuss.

BYOD is not a punishment imposed
on IT.

If I were to poll 100 admins and ask them what they need to sell to the company around BYOD, most would point out the obvious financial implications. Cost is important, but it's not the biggest issue.

To start, let's look at a scenario in the pre-BYOD world, which most of us have been dealing with for a long time. Per usual, IT gets irritated at the user's problem:

IT director's log -- June 10, 2010: "I came in today to find Jim in my office… again. His laptop was all jacked up… again. Anyway, it doesn't matter that his kid got a virus while trying to download Angry Birds -- it was my problem to solve. Fortunately, since every computer is the same, all I had to do was re-image it. Though I'm sure I'll see Jim again tomorrow."

Jim's boss's log -- June 10, 2010 (He thinks BYOD means bring your own donut): "While IT was working on Jim's computer, he killed an hour discussing TPS reports with me. I hate TPS reports."

This is a common situation. An end user has a problem and IT is annoyed that the user did something "stupid" but ultimately has the tools to fix it. Meanwhile, upper management doesn't really know or care about the problem.

Now, let's look at this same scenario under a BYOD program that's poorly implemented:

IT director's log -- June 10, 2014: "Jim just left my office in a huff. His old computer has a virus on it… looks like Jim Jr. has been at it again. He wanted me to fix it, but the thing is so old, that I told him to get the BYOD approval and get a new machine. He got really upset and asked me why this was his problem. I don't get it, why wouldn't someone want the freedom to pick their own computer? Also, why is this the first time he's hearing about our BYOD program? After all, management approved it."

Jim's boss's log -- June 10, 2014 (He vaguely remembers something about BYO…B?): "I asked Jim about his TPS report and he went off on me about how he didn't do it because his computer was broken and IT told him to go buy a new computer. Then he asked me about our BYOD program. I told him that program wasn't installed on my computer. He got even louder and told me that it's not software. Apparently we have our people buy their own computers now? I find that hard to believe -- all I know is that I could care less about IT and I couldn't help Jim.

More BYOD program tips

Guide: BYOD benefits and risks

Guide to mastering the BYOD trend

Pros and cons of bring your own device

So, the bigger picture is that BYOD is a serious cultural change brought about by the rapid consumerization of technology. It makes sense to an incoming generation of people that grew up on disposable technology and adaptation to new user interfaces. However, there are people that will be left in the margin. These people are not tech-savvy. They also are likely to be people that don't have a lot of free time and rely heavily on their personal technology: mobile sales people, field employees and managers.

Managers are especially important because once you get financial approval for your BYOD program, they will be a key element in a successful deployment. They need to know the core tenets of the program and they need to be able to direct employees to the right resources as problems arise. Additionally, they need to be able to advocate the value of the program as employees challenge the standard in use.

How can IT make this happen?

Involve managers. Discuss the program as it's being developed and include input from individual managers that will help tailor the program for their people.

Communicate regularly. Do this over at least the first few months of the program. A monthly email with the project status, successes and "did you know" tips works well.

Induct managers into the program first. They will help advocate the BYOD program to their employees if they have been through the process and had a positive experience.

Provide an alternative. BYOD doesn't have to be an all or nothing switch. It's best treated as a benefit available to those that want to take advantage of it. If you have an employee that is happy to have a corporate-assigned device, then why not let them keep the status quo?

Say yes. The answer should always be "yes" when someone needs help. It's easy for IT to throw their hands up and say, "you should get a different computer." Don't let your staff do that. BYOD is not a punishment imposed on IT. It's IT being flexible and embracing technology by allowing employees to be innovators.

Ultimately, BYOD gets a lot of different responses. Some hate it, others love it, some think it's a fad and others tout it as the future. Like every database ever invented, BYOD is a garbage-in-garbage-out proposition. You get from it what you give to it.

This was first published in March 2014

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