Bring your own computer: a tale of two interpretations
TMT Predictions 2013
Deloitte predicts that in 2013, very few additional companies will adopt a bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) policy, and some of those that already have one will abandon them. At the same time, Deloitte also predicts that more than 50 percent of Fortune 500 companies will allow employees to bring their own computers. The reason for the dual prediction is that there are two common (but different) interpretations of what BYOC means.
The first arises from the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, which was one of Deloitte’s 2010 predictions1. Within the enterprise, employees were choosing to use smartphones that were not enterprise-approved models. Enough people did this or wanted to do it that many companies moved to allow a more diverse range of smartphones, across multiple manufacturers and operating systems.
In the BYOD model, a worker would buy a smartphone themselves – and in many markets, the price they paid was subsidized by a two or three year contract. They would then be allowed to connect that device to access corporate emails, and would have the company pay for their monthly data and voice plans, which could amount to $1,200 or more over two years.
But PCs don’t usually come with data plans or subsidies; instead the biggest cost is the upfront purchase price for hardware and software. So one version of BYOD for the PC has meant that the company, instead of providing the employee with a standard PC, will give the employee a set allowance (a voucher, or an expense reimbursement) with which they can go out and fund their own laptop2. The employee is then permitted to connect that device to the corporate network and work in the same way as on a traditionally procured PC.
There are companies that have tried and are trying this version of BYOC. But not many, and it doesn’t seem to be as successful as hoped. One analysis found that only about five percent of firms have this kind of BYOC policy3. This flavor of BYOC appears higher among technology companies, where some firms have offered this for years, and the benefits touted include lower costs, higher productivity and happier employees. One enterprise that has had BYOC since 2008 has seen less than a quarter of employees enroll in the program4.
If this form of procurement worked so well with mobile devices, why not with PCs?
The enterprise PC upgrade cycle has lengthened in the last few years5. Budgets have been tight, and many employees have home PCs that may be more up-to-date than their corporate hardware, and they start asking for BYOC policies. According to research, merely offering them freshly upgraded computers could significantly reduce the volume of BYOC requests6.
Next, there are tax issues. In many countries, a PC funded through stipend or expense reimbursement is a taxable benefit to the employee, and the employer will generally not be able to reclaim VAT. If the budget allotted for a traditionally procured PC were $1500, the amount available for employees in the higher income tax brackets would be closer to $750. Firms could increase the stipend so that the after tax value was equivalent, but that would add to the cost of the BYOC program7.
An additional barrier may be technical support. One of the tradeoffs of offering BYOC is that it may also involve BYO IT as well. When BYOC is only among the early adopters and/or the technologically able, then technical support can be self-provisioned, i.e. the person asks around, goes on the web, or via an online community of technically savvy users, possibly through an enterprise social network. But that may work less well for mainstream workers, e.g. a sales team. In some companies the recommended solution has been that people buying their own computer also take out a contract with a third party provider of technical support. So as well as buying the computer they also have to buy a support contract which might cost $200. This may work in some cases, but may not be as rapid a response as traditional IT support, is unlikely to provide a ‘loaner’ PC from a pool and allowing remote access to the PC for the third party help desk may well violate the firm’s security policies.
On the other hand, there is an entirely different kind of BYOC that will be much more widely adopted in 2013. In this version, the enterprise continues to procure PCs for some percentage of its employees in the usual manner. But any employee who does not wish to use the employer provided PC may use their own personal computer for all work-related tasks. The employer pays no stipend, and offers no support for the machine.
In the United States, over 84 percent of households whose members are employed own a computer8. It is estimated that in some markets, a third of the working population does at least some contract work9. 54 percent of US businesses expect more than half their workers to work remotely by 201710. And another subset of employees may have very strong attachments to specific versions of computer hardware, operating systems or software.
Almost every firm will have some portion of their employees falling into one or more of the above categories, and for those workers, a BYOC policy that allows them to keep using their personally-owned machine for work purposes is a win-win situation: they get what they want, and the company doesn’t have to buy, maintain, support or upgrade a device that may cost thousands of dollars per year11.
The services made accessible by the enterprise will almost always include email access, but will usually be much more than that. It may support the communications services, like conference calls and webinars. They will also usually support access to the enterprise social network, HR functions like, onboarding, training videos, online learning, expense submissions, payroll and time logging.
Since the basis of this Prediction is that the stipend-based version of BYOC is unlikely to be widely adopted, the bottom line focuses exclusively on the model under which employees use their own devices for work purposes.
Allowing employees to bring their own computers, even when the enterprise pays nothing for the PC or the software on it, is not without costs. Some enterprise software may need to be available in web versions, and re-engineering those can cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
Users may also need to access certain enterprise functionality through a virtual desktop. There are a number of solutions, and they tend to cost in the hundreds of dollars per employee, although they provide relatively high levels of security: under this structure, at no point does the employee owned device ever connect directly to the corporate IT network. However, Virtual Private Network (VPN) solutions tend to require more bandwidth, and occasionally may work less well for access through cellular or home networks.
Security is a crucial aspect of allowing employee-owned PCs to connect to the network. It is necessary to establish policies around what kind of connection is allowed, and over which networks. For example, a secure PC connecting to a secure corporate network, but over an unprotected Wi-Fi home network isn’t secure any more. Access should be automated so that the appropriate level of security is always enforced, and not left to the employee’s discretion12.
One of the most challenging issues around BYOC involves privacy. Employees may be willing, or even pleased to be able to use their own PCs for work. And they may be willing to comply with various security policies. But they are unlikely to be ok with their employer having full access to their PC, including personal files. This creates a challenge if a PC is lost or stolen, or the employee is terminated. Employers have the right and obligation to protect corporate data, but various privacy laws usually prevent them from (as an example) remote wiping all drives on a stolen employee PC. There are various technology solutions that allow for corporate data to be kept in its own 'sandbox', but employers should also consult privacy experts to ensure compliance with various laws, which vary by country, or even state or province.
Finally, firms must create and enforce policies that make clear to employees using BYOC they have responsibilities and liabilities. These policies should cover maintaining PCs in working order, including current versions of software is kept up to date, especially around security issues like virus protection.
1 “IT Procurement stands on its head”, Source: Technology Predictions, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, 2010. See: www.deloitte.com/tmtpredictions2010
2 Almost all BYOC purchases seem to be for laptops. Desktops do not appear to be the usual choice under these programs, although they are usually not specifically excluded.
3 Source: Bring Your Own Device: New Opportunities, New Challenges, Gartner, 16 August 2012. See: http://www.gartner.com/id=2125515
4 Source: Embracing the Consumerization of IT: A BYOD Case Study, ThinkHDI, June 2012. See: http://www.thinkhdi.com/~/media/HDICorp/Files/SupportWorld/2012/MayJune12/SW_MayJune12_Genoway_BYOD.pdf
5 Source: PC market decline casts doubt on future of corporate PC refresh cycle, ComputerWeekly, 24 May 2011. See: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280095946/PC-market-decline-casts-doubt-on-future-of-corporate-PC-refresh-cycle
6 UK research study of BYOC policies by Deloitte LLP. Study to be published in Q1 2013.
7 Deloitte LLP (UK) tax findings, part of the same study. Study to be published in Q1 2013.
8 Source: Computer and Internet Use in the United States, United States Census Bureau, 2010. See: http://www.census.gov/hhes/computer/publications/2010.html
9 Source: A nation of temps, Salon Media Group, 23 August 2012. See: http://www.salon.com/2012/08/22/a_nation_of_temps/
10 Source: The Great Shrinking Office? More Companies Hire Remote Workers: Survey, CNBC, 14 June 2012. See: http://www.cnbc.com/id/47815587/The_Great_Shrinking_Office_More_Companies_Hire_Remote_Workers_Survey
11 Source: Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of IT, Nash Networks, January 2009. See: http://www.nashnetworks.ca/total-cost-of-ownership-tco-of-it.htm
12 Source: The move from BYOD to CYOD, Computer Business Review, 10 December 2012. See: http://www.cbronline.com/blogs/cbr-rolling-blog/guest-blog-the-move-from-byod-to-cyod-101212