The bring-your-own-device era has begun and demand is growing within I.T departments globally from requests made by end-users to connect up their devices. For sometime now it has been a common place for enterprises to have a BYOD policy among executives, allowing them to be highly mobile and flexible. BYOD has turned from concept to reality for many organisations as a result of advances in cloud computing of recent. Large software vendors such as Microsoft have made large investments to ensure organisations can implement and support a BYOD policy and enable I.T to still manage and control corporate data like they did under the traditional managed device era.
Let’s unpack the meaning of BYOD for a moment;
- People-centric I.T – The focus must be around the end-user in all design aspects of a BYOD policy
- Unlimited choice empowers productivity – Limiting the devices a user may bring does not satisfy a true BYOD policy
- Self-service – BYOD brings management challenges to I.T departments, where possible end-user self-service and automation must be considered. I.T shouldn’t be expected to directly support all devices, but rather focus more effort on supporting the organisations service catalogue instead.
Within the Education sector, schools for a long time had computer programs where by a standard device was on offer and the school would then roll-out and mange these fleets in a very traditional way. This would involve a standard image for that given hardware profile and a set of licensed software applications to go with the offering. Financing these fleets normally would be done by means of a leasing agreement and/or in the case of public sector schools particularly in Australia funded through government grants. Either way you look at these models over time they become un-sustainable. Not just financially for the school to support but from a learning perspective also. Students can be related to employees in a company when we discuss the benefits of BYOD.
When a student is using a school provided device that is of a standard less than expected or maybe use too (compared to a personal computer at home) the satisfaction and attitude towards the provided device is generally lower, in turn productivity from the student will be lesser than expected. Much like employees, when they are given a device that they are un-happy with, the productivity from that employee is likely to be lower. Some assumptions are made of course that these devices have been selected by the end-user knowing what the work requirements are to get their job done.
Consumerisation of I.T in the last few years has caused this trend; you can spend time debating how and why this trend occurred and is still occurring, but in reality its here to stay whether I.T likes it or not. As new technology becomes more accessible globally and cost of devices becomes less overtime the ability for a user to have a new device more often is more likely.
As schools increasing start to deliver more e-learning experiences to students via web properties, this creates a device-agnostic environment that can support a BYOD policy. If each student is to need a computing device to aid the learning experience, schools then need to make sure the 1-to-1 program is sustainable. Resources need to be focussed on the learning outcomes, not wasted on purchasing and maintaining large fleets of end-user computing devices. In a general context, this is what we have done for years with regards to pens, pencils and text books. Individualised learning and personalised learning experiences are also making ground in the modern-day educational programs schools offer. Allowing students choice in their computing device should also fit perfectly into these scenarios.
I welcome others comments on how they are approaching their BYOD strategy either from those working in enterprise or in the education sector. I do hope to publish some more technical content in the near future on Microsoft technologies that help enable BYOD programs. Please let me know if there is any specific content you are particularly interested in.