Thursday, December 8, 2011

BYOD - A Symptom of Poor IT Service Delivery

Does What You Deliver Match What Was Asked For?
Enterprise mobility and BYOD are both hot topics these days. However, I think the two topics are too often lumped together when they shouldn't be because most BYOD discussion involves mobile devices.

Fellow IT bloggers Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd) and Bill Hill (@virtual_bill) posted articles around the BYOD trend (see Tom's article and Bill's article). These articles, along with numerous other blog posts, public discussions, and different viewpoints expressed within the IT community have led me to voice my opinion on this topic. I wrote once already about the need to focus enterprise mobility on building organizational value, but didn't directly discuss the interaction between enterprise mobility and BYOD.

The focus of much of the general discussion by IT workers that I have noticed centers around how this trend is hitting IT departments, reactions to whether IT should provide services to personal mobile devices, how the IT department can secure data, and how to address device support.

I think these are important questions that are yet unanswered to a large extent. However, it feels like these conversations within IT circles are still missing the point. Engineers like us field requests, start determining requirements, limitations, impacts, and trying to execute on delivery. I hear concerns over supportability and security for both endpoint devices and corporate data. In other words, we love to solve problems. However, in so doing we tend to focus on non-functional requirements without proper perspective on functional strategy definition. Implicitly, large assumptions are made that BYOD is a solution that must be delivered. In most cases, it's NOT!

Instead, we should be taking a step back to understand where this request is coming from, why the request is being made (on a pretty large scale), determine the real request (rather than what may be directly asked for), and develop a strategy that solves the underlying business needs. Let's not just form a knee-jerk reaction to the request, assume that personal devices are the path forward, and start throwing up barriers to make ourselves feel better and commiserate with one another.

Here's what I'm driving towards:

BYOD is fundamentally an employee reaction to poor IT service delivery!

Whoa! Shocking statement, right?! Let's take a step back at the purpose of technology within the organization. It's my opinion that many IT departments get so caught up in running an IT organization, fielding requests, and being order takers, that they lose sight of their responsibility - to partner with the larger organization to deliver services that meet business objectives. Let's face facts, many individuals within IT are seriously hampered by lack of communication skills with business partners, have trouble interacting with non-technical staff and translating business objectives into sound IT strategies and solutions, and this turns into a large case of "group-think" whereby the IT organization keeps it's head down and drives incremental technology updates without understanding or delivering solutions that are best for the business.

I think this is bore out by the dissatisfaction of most employees with the end-user computing platforms deployed by corporate IT departments. Corporate laptops run slow because of layers upon layers of software that undermines usability of the system to the point that employees stop using them.

It's my belief that employees and business teams turn towards BYOD because it's a tangible solution to very real problems they experience every day - namely the dissatisfaction and poor performance of current end-user computer platforms in the workplace which undermines employee productivity, and the lack of appropriate enterprise mobility solutions being delivered by the internal IT organization which prevents business flexibility and new operational capabilities.

And let's get real, IT organizations are not only seeing this trend in the end-user computing space. Developers are turning to outside SaaS solutions for development platforms, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is maturing fast, and cloud services, while mainly private clouds for large organizations today, will begin migrating to hybrid and public cloud solutions in the near future. Now not all of this can be attributed to poor IT service delivery, but don't kid yourself into thinking this isn't at-least part of the reason (if not a very large part).

What corporate IT organizations need to do about enterprise mobility and BYOD is straight forward but can be a tough pill to swallow - focus on IT service delivery that aligns with business capabilities! This may mean that many IT departments take a critical look at themselves and acknowledge that gaps exists. Some IT organizations are fast on this migration path, whereas others may not have even started.

Bill hits the nail on the head in his article when he says:
IT needs to engage with the business to keep them abreast of concerns. Open dialogue with the business will help ensure technological expectations meet some sort of equilibrium between what IT feels is appropriate and what the business feels is necessary.

Consider the following:
  • Understand that some business processes can be better-served with mobile solutions
  • The fundamental "ask" by business teams is to enable mobility within the organization
    • BYOD is largely a by-product of evolving business needs intersecting with dissatisfaction of current solutions delivered by the IT organization
  • Prioritization of business processes that will most benefit from mobility should occur
    • Mobile-everything is not realistic, at least not right away. Focus on adding value to core business capabilities through the tactical use of mobile solutions where it makes sense.
  • An approach to mobile endpoint, software, and applications need to be defined that best matches the business use-cases
    • This could be corporate-liable, personal-liable, or a hybrid approach for endpoints
    • The application development approach will be critical to success, requiring close integration between mobile applications and business processes, not simple migrating existing applications to mobile platforms or standing up VDI workarounds.
  • Business processes will need to be re-designed with mobile workflow in mind
  • IT organizations must better understand core business capabilities by partnering with business teams and become an integral participant in solution definition
    • The fact is that most business teams and individuals outside of IT are now tech-savvy and are defining their own solutions without the aid of the IT organization because of frustrations surrounding lack of IT agility, flexibility, and delivery time, and the delivery of solutions that do not meet business needs.
    • Many IT workers don't have or want to develop business skills, according to fellow blogger Matthew Norwood (@matthewnorwood). This is okay! Technical roles exist to define and execute technology strategy, not business strategy. These skills are still tremendously valuable. However, the IT organization as a whole must have business skills, and IT leadership must be cognizant of filling both business consultant roles and technology architect / engineer roles within the skillsets of their teams.

This should be a wake-up call for IT organizations, which are being required to shift into a service delivery organization to meet modern business requirements. We must adopt a mindset that focuses on providing strategies and solutions that meet business capabilities / requirements first and meeting non-functional requirements second. If we can't deliver the fundamental capabilities the business teams need, they will look elsewhere (as they are already doing in many instances). It doesn't matter if we build the most technically elegant mouse trap that kills mice with 100% reliability, if it doesn't solve the infestation problem then it's a failure.

Does Your IT Organization Have An
Infestation of Mice?

That's my 0.02¢ (okay maybe 0.05¢).



  1. Tend to agree, tired of webinars, white papers, on byod. wonder if any CIOs agree or feel the same..

  2. Great idea. Thanks for the information you have shared.

  3. BYOD stands for Bring your own device right?