The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend has its roots in two significant events that challenged corporate IT behavior. The first was the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009. The recession affected the entire economy, and IT was not spared its shadow. One key result of the recession was the interruption of regular refresh cycles. Prior to the recession, many businesses replaced endpoint devices (then, almost exclusively PCs) on a regular cycle – e.g., one third of devices would be refreshed every year, and the devices themselves would be used for three years, dividing the capital cost of keeping endpoint technology up-to-date across multiple annual budgets. The cash crunch that hit most businesses in the recession prompted many to forego refresh cycles, replacing individual units only when they failed. This approach did conserve scarce resources during the downturn, but when stability returned to the economy, CIOs realized that a large proportion of corporate endpoints were due for replacement – and CFOs realized that they lacked the CAPEX funds needed to refresh the entire endpoint fleet.
At the same time, another trend – Consumerization – was sweeping through the IT industry.
Since the beginning of computing, the most capable technology was purchased by businesses; consumers used lesser models or corporate hand-me-downs for at-home use. However, in recent years this paradigm has reversed. The shift started with smartphones, where individual consumers could acquire better phones, on a faster refresh cycle and with access to a much wider pool of apps, than corporations could provide. It then spread to tablets: many businesses were reluctant to invest in these devices while their PC fleet was aging and needed a refresh, and consumers, again, had the benefit of the latest and most capable technology. Finally, the PC itself became integrated into home life as fully as it was in the business environment. Consumers bought PCs for their own use – and often, these PCs were better than the aging units that they were provided by their employers. In many small businesses, in fact, the worker was expected to arrive with their own PC – the company did not invest its capital in products that merely replicated (often, at lower levels of capability) devices that employees already owned.
The combination of these two events gave rise to BYOD. Employees recognized the productivity benefits of new endpoint devices (smartphones, tablets), and began using their own technology in a work setting. Often, IT fretted about this trend – how could data and applications on employee-owned devices be properly secured? How would their use be reflected in audits, or stand up to regulatory requirements? – but these concerns were generally lost in the desire of the CFO to avoid corporate investment in a simultaneous refresh of existing technology and an expansion for a single-screen to a multi-screen user environment, and the desire of employees to have access to ‘better than corporate’ consumer technology.
Over time, corporations, employees and IT management have begun to strike a balance around BYOD. Methods of safeguarding data and applications, such as VDI and MDM/DLP technologies, have become more common. Aside from the very smallest business, corporations have developed policies for reimbursement, for support, and for HR contracts specifying the terms of personal device access to corporate resources. And newer trends, such as CYOD (choose your own device) and COPE (company-owned, personally enabled) are attempting to further align corporate and employee interests.
Regardless of the pace and direction of these modifications, though, BYOD is a phenomenon that OEMs and software vendors are trying to still understand. An important proportion of all new SMB technology is acquired via BYOD today, and these buyers are known to consider a wider range of technologies than their employers do – meaning that they represent a significant and diverse market for endpoint suppliers.