Despite the reluctance of many companies to seriously consider Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) polices, Gartner says that in the coming years the development of such polices will create as big a shift in enterprise computing as PCs did when they first entered the workplace.

While that seems like a fairly dramatic claim, it needs to be understood here that Gartner is not saying that every company will allow employees to bring their own device, but that in terms of enterprise computing companies are going to have to make strategic allowances for it.

Enterprise BYOD Programs

To be clear, BYOD refers to company policies that allow employees, business partners and others use personally selected and purchased client devices, and to access enterprise applications using those devices.

The security implications and threats are clear. So much so that earlier this year we saw IBM decide against allowing workers to bring their own devices despite having started off with a BYOD policy that enabled them do this. IBM stated at the time that it was afraid that sensitive data would find its way outside the workplace and into the hands of competitors.

The result, in this instance, is that device use in IBM enterprises is strictly controlled, and smartphones and other devices that have not been vetted are off limits -- including unapproved PCs.

Developing BYOD Policies

While this may appear to go against Gartner’s claim, which is contained in a research paper "Bring Your Own Device: New Opportunities, New Challenges" by David Willis, it actually falls in nicely with what Gartner is saying -- that all enterprises in the future will have to develop BYOD policies.

Factors that are necessitating the development of such a policy include mobile innovation that makes even the most powerful smart devices affordable for most employees, as well as making upgrades easier and less expensive.

Rather than entire enterprises trying to keep up with the pace of change that this is encouraging, it will be easier for enterprises to develop a policy that enables their employees do this, while at the same time keeping data and networks safe from outside interference.

A typical BYOD approach would involve permitting users access rights to certain enterprise applications and information on personal devices, subject to enterprise security arrangements, demands and management policies.

Enterprises, for example, may provide a list of acceptable devices that the user can choose from. The IT department may then be able to offer partial, or even full IT support to users, along with full, partial, or no reimbursement to users that sign up to it.

Learning Opportunities

Theoretically, everyone here is happy. The employees gets technology they want and are used to working with and get support for the work applications that they want to use. For enterprises that reimburse there will often be initial economic advantages as employees take up special offers from vendors that are only available to individuals, and enterprise security is guaranteed.

BYOD Drawbacks?

Except that according to Gartner it won’t evolve like this:

Just as we saw with home broadband in the past decade, the expectation that the company will supply full reimbursement for equipment and services will decline over time, and we will see the typical employer favor reimbursing only a portion of the monthly bill. We also expect that as adoption grows and prices decline employers will reduce the amount they reimburse,” Willis says.

Neither will BYOD reduce the cost of computing in the long term. As BYOD polices are implemented and businesses look to improve the performance of devices through software upgrades, file sharing capabilities and business applications, things start getting quite expensive.

In these circumstances, Gartner says, the best way to deal with it is to address it with a combination of policy, software, infrastructure controls and education in the short term, and application management with appropriate cloud controls in the long term.

Finally, BYOD polices will be built in conjunction with HR departments, legaldepartments, IT departments and business leaders, which is where the development of such policies is going to impact on the enterprise right across the board.

All that said, Gartner says that despite the challenges BYOD programs are on the way and likely to go beyond smartphones and tablets, and include BYOD for laptops and PCs. Even there it won’t stop. Willis argues that in the coming years what we will see is the emergence of not so much BYOD, as polices that will enable programs to Bring-Your-Own applications, collaboration systems and even social networks into the enterprise.