BYOD: It’s not as scary as some make it seem

As many schools and business look to deploy a BYOD solution hoping to answer their end-device management problems, most will come across white-papers and marketing literature that attempts to convince decision makers of the challenges BYOD presents and potential business risks that are created as a result of BYOD programs.

Don’t get me wrong, BYOD can create business risk if implemented incorrectly. Business scenarios can potentially bare more risk than rollouts in education environments. My honest opinion – the principals stay the same. Technically speaking, there will be differences.

I was in this position about 12 months ago, making decisions designing and rolling out a BYOD program for the school I work at. One year on, and I am pleased to report that the program has gone smoothly; students and staff are happy, device usage levels have increased in comparison to the school provided laptop program that was previously in place and overall our I.T support process has been somewhat simplified.

I will admit that in the last 12 months we have certainly made clarifications and small adjustments to our support processes but overall the program remains unchanged moving into next year. During the planning stages; I can also admit that I had some reservations and concerns with the concept of BYOD and naturally when you let go of control to some degree, that can be considered a risk.

Looking back, most of these concerns were generated from information I was reading from suppliers and conferences I had attended where we would be told of all these issues that BYOD programs could potentially cause. Some alternatives that were suggested included variations to a true BYOD program. Such suggestions were ‘Managed BYOD’ where-by the supplier of choice provides an ordering portal and ‘CYOD’ or choose-your-own-device where-by the school predefined a list of chosen devices and students select from these options only. For us, none of these options came close to what we considered as a real BYOD program. Our program was not being designed as a smoke screen, for the sake of being the flavour of the month.

What came out of all this was a simple question, why are we offering BYOD in the first place?

Often suppliers or vendors would make BYOD seem scary as they were scared themselves. Change can be a scary thing! Particularly referring to education markets, traditionally schools would bulk purchase uniform fleets of devices. This created a steady and predictable sales channel for suppliers. Australian Government grants in late 2009 and 2010 boosted this economic steadiness which created some comfort for I.T suppliers around the country. The BYOD wave began not long after most schools had engaged and rolled-out their first 1-1 laptop program. Something that never existed before for most public schools in Australia.

Revenue streams were forecasted to change for suppliers, once schools moved away from school-purchase programs to BYOD or user-purchased programs. You can see why some I.T suppliers might see concern with this. In the end, the school doesn’t decided on a laptop program simply for convenience of the purchase process – well if they are, you have to wonder what the purpose of the laptop program aims to achieve?

Ubiquitous access to devices outside of school enables creative learning anytime anywhere. BYOD programs should aim to provide a pathway for this to occur in school as well.

If you are still planning a BYOD program or looking at options. Decide on what the program will aim to achieve and don’t let suppliers or vendors bully you into options that convenience their back-pocket and not achieving your program’s goals.

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