A CFO's Take on This BYOD Thing

For one thing, understanding the business drivers and workforce demands is vital before defining the next-generation desktop roadmap.

TOPICS: technology

In a nutshell: The ever-increasing popularity of mobile devices has changed the way many enterprise users deploy technology, with an ever-increasing body of employees now bringing their own devices into work with them. The enterprise, meanwhile, focuses on ensuring its data is available securely to these devices. So, how prevalent is this trend really?

I'll skip the potential cost savings; relative to the extent of your enterprise, a move to mobile devices in replacement of PCs will indeed save a little cash, but this will quickly be eaten up by the IT departments need to make data available and secure.

A global Forrester Consulting study, announced in September last year, confirmed BYOD is part of today's discussions, noting that of 546 organizations looked at, two-thirds had seen end-user interest in BYOD policies (PDF).

Also interesting: 20-22% of businesses already support employee-owned laptops, tablets and smartphones. An additional 16-21% of enterprises intend enabling such support across the next two years. In this they're driven by an interest in helping employees become more autonomous in providing their own tech support. Some are chasing that holy grail of cost-saving, but I'm not convinced they've fully thought through the process.

Take desktop virtualization; 21% of the survey group are prioritizing desktop and application virtualization above any moves to upgrade their Windows installs. The impact here should be to make an enterprise completely platform- and device-neutral. This should be a good thing. Another 29% of firms are standardizing around Windows 7 and desktop virtualization.

In a sense, Microsoft has caused an own-goal here. News that it intends ending Windows XP support has caused many firms to look at their options. Do they need Windows, do they trust Microsoft, is Apple a viable alternative? What of mobile devices? The iPad? Can smartphones do the job?

Questions like that, and the increasing popularity of Apple's platforms, have led to a seismic shift in tech purchasing. Gartner this week confirmed PC shipments are down 5.9% in Q4 2011 in comparison to the previous year, while Apple shipped 20.7% more Macs. Apple now has 11.6% market share (Gartner), or 10.92% (IDC). This reflects the way CFOs are asking themselves questions about platform commitments.

Why? In a research report released last year, Dimension Data said: “Organizations must first understand their business drivers, workforce demands, and the state of their application ecosystem before they define their next generation desktop roadmap."