You know about BYOB and BYOD – bring your own broadband and device. These trends have been shaping communications recently, and create big challenges for IT. BYOB actually works on two levels for the business, first as a buyer and then as a provider. As a buyer, the business is free to choose its broadband partner independent of the decision to partner with a VoIP or UC provider. This is very different from the legacy model where the incumbent provided both the connectivity and the services/applications.
For the second scenario, the shoe is on the other foot in that BYOB refers to your employees bringing their personal wireless broadband connections into the workplace. In essence, this puts your LAN in competition with personal BYOB when it comes to connectivity. Ideally, you want all work-related traffic to run over your network, but with Wi-Fi, employees have easy options for getting some work done off-net.
This really isn’t what you want them doing, and things only get more complicated with the rise of BYOD. Not only are employees using personal connectivity to get things done in the workplace, but they’re doing it via their own mobile devices. There is certainly an allure for IT in that they don’t have to lay out the money for these high-end devices, but along with that comes the expectation among employees to use them on their terms.
Some businesses are starting to see this as a lose-lose situation, and there’s a real shift happening in the balance of power. On one hand, they lose because employees have many off-net options for getting work done that cannot be monitored by IT. They also stand to lose because employees also want to do work on-net with these devices. Since they have already made their choices of phones and tablets, IT must scramble ensure the LAN can support them both efficiently and securely.
Balance of power shifting to end users
Both BYOB and BYOD present ongoing challenges here, and businesses typically struggle to adapt on the fly. IT is used to having full control over the network and everything connected to it, but that time has clearly passed. In time, they will figure out patchwork solutions for BYOB and BYOD, but just as they reach that point, another acronym will push the envelope out a bit further. In the world of UC, devices are certainly important, but are just one component of the overall experience.
Mobile broadband is the starting point, since it gives rise to the ubiquitous use of Internet-based applications in wireless settings. That, in turn, gave rise to smart devices to connect these applications to mobile end users. Taken together, end users now have extensive control over how network resources are consumed, and that brings us to BYOE – bring your own experience.
This is quickly becoming the new normal for UC, and it means that solutions now need to be built around the end user as much if not more than the needs of the network. Early forms of UC were very much about the latter, but the environment is changing too quickly now, especially outside the workplace. This is where the term consumerization of IT comes into play, and in short, this means that innovation is happening faster in the consumer world than in the workplace.
Why the consumer world matters
For some time now, expectations about workplace applications have been driven by consumer experiences, which tend to be free, easy to use, fun, and social. Just think about how your children engage with the Internet, and compare that to the applications you use at work. Enterprise software tends to be the exact opposite from the Internet world when it comes to innovation, and this has a lot to do with BYOD. When employees discover they can communicate and even collaborate more effectively using consumer-grade applications than with the tools available at work, you have a problem.
In that context, BYOE should start to make sense. Employees are bringing those expectations into work, looking for the same types of experiences. The Internet is all about sharing, flexibility, personalization, speed, scale, etc., and if they’re not getting that at their desks, they have the means to find it on their own thanks to BYOB and BYOE.
Remember, employees aren’t the ones paying for UC, so they have no reason to make this their default mode, especially if they have better options elsewhere. This is where the balance of power shift is so important, and if you’re still thinking about UC in terms of what’s best for your network, IT will be happy, but nobody will be using UC. Conversely, you need to ask the right questions of UC vendors to see how well they understand this power shift and have adapted their offerings around the expectations that come with BYOE.
Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.
Edited by Maurice Nagle