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10 considerations for BYOD cost/benefit analysis

Determining the potential savings of a BYOD program requires a careful cost/benefit analysis. Here are 10 concerns to help guide the process.

Perhaps the most difficult element of the whole Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement is determining whether it will save your organization money. There's no guaranteed formula for assessing the costs versus benefits of BYOD for an organization — BYOD is far from a one-size-fits-all initiative. But all organizations contemplating BYOD should do a thorough, upfront cost/benefit analysis. Here are 10 things to keep in mind when you prepare to conduct a BYOD cost/benefit analysis for your organization.

1: Current costs of company-owned devices

One of the first items to grasp when performing a BYOD cost/benefit analysis is the current cost of owning and maintaining company-owned laptops and mobile devices. This is one of the many areas of information that require input from accounting and IT management. When figuring out the current costs of your corporate-owned devices, don't forget such elements as maintenance plans and "consumables," like chargers and protective cases.

2: Cost of implementing and managing an MDM solution

Beyond the technical considerations of implementing a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, there are the costs to be concerned with. Even if you choose to go with a cloud solution, it still means subscription costs for MDM that need to be factored into your overall budget for BYOD. While you're at it, factor in the hourly rate of the IT staff that will be responsible for managing the solution.

3: Costs of BYOD policy development and program management

BYOD policy development and ongoing program management are overhead tasks that can't be billed back to a client. Such projects can even be harder to justify these days due to our down economy. BYOD policy development and management require the attention of a project manager and even higher-level stakeholders (at least in the beginning), whose time may be better spent on customer-facing projects and running the business. You need to decide whether BYOD can get the appropriate attention or whether your staff needs to focus on revenue-generating projects.

4: Updating in-place enterprise security and help desk

The move to BYOD means extra responsibilities and costs for your enterprise security and help desk staff as part of the build-out and management of technology infrastructure, the ongoing added support, and the costs of increased support for BYOD users. Your organization can rack up additional costs, such as:

  • Updating help desk policies and procedures to accommodate the BYOD initiative.
  • Developing new user documentation and help desk knowledge base content.
  • Updating existing corporate IT security training.
  • Retraining and/or cross-training of help desk staff.

5: Hidden back-end costs

Opening up your corporate network to BYOD devices can also lead to some hidden back-end costs, most notably when it comes to enterprise software licensing and increased network traffic. While some of these costs can be discovered through upfront analysis, it still may lead your company down the path to increased costs if you have to add system capacity, security, and administration to accommodate an influx of BYOD users.

6: Benefits to employee morale and productivity

Even though I'm currently a freelance writer, and I buy and maintain my own technology, I've had my share of full-time jobs and onsite contracts where my life would have been much easier if I was using my own equipment. Keeping raggedy PCs and poorly implemented backend systems working was often a blow to the morale and productivity of my team and myself.

As part of your cost/benefit analysis, it can be helpful to take a look at the potential impact BYOD can have on employee morale and productivity. It might be hard to quantify it as a budget item — so then look at the impact BYOD might have on the work of your more tech-savvy employees.

7: Costs of BYOD stipends and/or allowances

While mobile device ownership is just assumed these days, usage of corporate-owned mobile devices by employees has traditionally been about the position and job classification. Will stipends and/or allowances that come with opening up BYOD to employees at all levels result in savings or more expense for the company?

Companies have the benefit of corporate discounts when they purchase voice and data plans that a person doesn't have, so the costs of corporate versus personal purchasing of voice and data plans could become a strike against going BYOD.

A meeting with a corporate sales rep from your current mobile provider should be an action item on your road to BYOD.

8: Risk management expenses

I fully expect to go online one morning and read about the first high-profile security breach that critics trace back to BYOD. While I am sure the breaches are out there, I am talking a breach so big it will make mainstream news headlines and lead to consequences across organizations large and small that are going BYOD.

9: Internal app development costs

Many organizations run their business on some key — yet legacy — applications. Opening these applications up to BYOD users might mean further app development and maintenance that may not have been in the original application requirements.

10: Benefits of employees being more responsive to your customers

This item is another hard thing to measure. It requires a corporate values or gut check. Opening up corporate access to personal mobile devices should help your employees be more responsive to your customers. It doesn't have to be the work/life balance rabbit hole you often see organizations go down.

The value of cost/benefit analysis

BYOD cost/benefit analysis is a time to step away from the analysts, pundits, and the buzz around BYOD that sometimes overwhelms the more practical aspects of the initiative. It will also help you take a good, hard look at workplace and financial realities that might make or break your BYOD plans.

More resources

For a comprehensive look at BYOD strategies, benefits, and challenges, check out ZDNet's latest feature page, BYOD and the Consumerization of IT.

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Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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