BYOD Requires Enterprise Awareness, ProfitLine Execs Say

ProfitLine, a telecom expense and mobility management services provider, has a message for enterprises trying to support employee-owned devices as the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) phenomenon continues to gain traction: You must establish expectations with employees before allowing them to connect their own devices to your network. That according to ProfitLine Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Eric Januszko and ProfitLine VP of Marketing Kathleen Glass, both of whom I spoke withabout the trends they are seeing among their enterprise clients when it comes to BYOD. Here's a little bit of what they had to say.

"There have been two big trends around BYOD within the last 18 months," said Januszko, whose primary role as of late has been to extend ProfitLine's offering to include mobile device management (MDM). "In late 2009 everyone was buying iPhones and Android was coming out. Companies wanted to convert employees to company-owned devices but they wanted to give employees a choice."

This, by both Januszko's and Glass' estimation, was an epic failure. Employees were adamant about using their own devices. So enterprises took an alternative route: they decided to either let employees purchase their own phone and and pay for their own service, or purchase one of the two for their employees and then give them a fixed stipend to cover monthly expenses. This also failed because not enough employees were buying in.

The result of that trial and error period is what Januszko and Glass call a "hybrid model." Enterprises aren't giving employees phones, but they are letting employees connect their own phones to the enterprise network. And that was how BYOD was born. Of course there are other kinks in the system that still need to be worked out, like security.

"What about security?" Glass asked. "Can companies do a selective wipe or a full wipe of devices? What about policies and waivers that enterprises can have employees sign? Companies want to  be able to wipe the phone if they feel the data is being compromised." And companies can do this as long as they clearly state their right to wipe devices in a pre-signed waiver form. A wipe can mean wiping only company data (selective wipe) or wiping all data (full wipe) from the device, including personal data, and some employees aren't willing to take that risk.

What about SMBs?

ProfitLine exclusively serves the enterprise market, as do many MDM providers. But there are definitely SMBs whose employees are using their own devices to connect to their business networks. So why aren't more companies addressing their needs?

"People with fairly small environments can comfortably manage devices on their own," Glass explained. "But some companies have gotten to a certain size and complexity in terms of the number of carriers they have to support and regions they operate in where it becomes very time-consuming and expensive and you need a lot of expertise in-house. So larger companies are realizing that managing their own devices is not efficient."

Several research firms like Gartner Inc. and Forrester Research have pinpointed the cutoff line for managing your own devices at about 1,500 before the complexity becomes too overwhelming. That's when companies like ProfitLine come in. ProfitLine handles the procurement and fulfillment of mobile device requests, negotiates carrier contracts and offers a 24/7 call center and help desk support service. "It's a complete telecom environment service for the larger enterprise," Januszko said.

Future of BYOD

Januszko said the technology and support around BYOD, particularly when it comes to MDM, is moving "very fast" and tech vendors are responding to the needs of BYOD. The one area that needs improvement? Corporate unawareness.

"Corporate unawareness of devices connected to their networks needs to change," said Glass, who noted that many companies do not know how many devices they're handling. "You need to know that in order to control them."

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