Bring your own ROI

For this month’s cover feature, I spoke to five IT leaders about their bring-your- own-device programmes. There was no doubt in any of their minds that the introduction of BYOD had been beneficial to their organisations.

Many saw it as a way to reap the benefits of mobile and remote working without incurring the cost of company-issued mobile devices. Others saw it as a tool for empowering employees, improving their engagement with the organisation and increasing their satisfaction with IT.

But many of them also reported that building a business case for BYOD using the traditional tool for justifying IT investments – return on investment – was not possible.

In many cases, the BYOD programme was only possible because executive demand for iPhones and iPads necessitated investment in mobile device management software. Once MDM was in place, enabling BYOD became much less risky, and therefore much cheaper.

One of the reasons why BYOD eludes a simple ROI calculation is that the benefits that it offers cannot easily be measured in money terms. How much is it worth to an organisation that their employees have a wider choice of mobile devices, or that they no longer have to carry around three or four separate devices with them?

If some industry observers are to be believed, the ‘bring your own’ movement, if it can be described as such, will not stop at mobile devices. Already, analysts are discussing the possibility of ‘bring your own apps’, where employees procure their own applications to access company data and communications.

Meanwhile, business intelligence companies such as Tableau Software claim that their ‘visual analytics’ tools allow more staff to reach their own interpretation of data – ‘bring your own analytics’, perhaps.

All of these will require some investment from the IT department, if data is to be secure, compliant and of a consistent quality. But those investments, like supporting BYOD, may not have a direct financial payback for the organisation.

Instead, the return on investment will be mediated by the individual. The pertinent question is: how much more productive, loyal and motivated will employees be in a BYO environment?

This arguably calls for a new approach to IT finance –one that incorporates metrics focused on individual performance and engagement, not just organisational efficiency. Achieving this will be no mean feat, but it could address some long-standing issues in corporate IT – not least the antipathy most employees feel towards their IT department.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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