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Bring Your Own X

The world of IT would be a horribly boring place without the ever evolving buzzword bingo around different trends and emerging technologies. The term BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) topped the chart’s on Gartner’s Hype Cycle for 2012, then disappeared from the next one, but it’s still surely riding high on the hype wave, now partially blurred with all the different mobility hype terminology.


A friend of mine wrote a great post on the numerous challenges that BYOD will face when taken out into the real world and meeting the security requirements of corporations, ISO certifications and all the other boring objects that are both less shiny and much thicker than the latest iPad Air. Inspired by this, also decided to write down a few thoughts on all things BYOx.

I think the BYOD phenomenon has been exaggerated and the scenarios which some vendors are hyping up are very unlikely to become a widely adopted practice. At the end of the day it probably hasn’t been such a major shift towards the need for “bringing your own” rather than just a backlash against the bad practices forced upon corporate slaves by the ever so evil IT departments (and the boards who cut their budgets). If you make people work with XP machines that take 15 minutes to boot and don’t provide them any mobile services for basic communication outside a crappy VPN connection, then surprise, surprise, these folks will be interested in any alternative that shows them a potential way out of such IT hell.

I see BYOD as a concept that falls under the more important Shadow IT umbrella, instead of it being a major trend on its own. BYOD might as well be labelled BYOM or BYOI (Bring Your Own Mac/iPhone), since that’s what it’s really been more about. People dream about the possibility of working in a same kind of care free environment that their devices back home make up, while ignoring the fact that a single user computing environment is by definition always going to bee far more simple than any system that has been designed to meet the basic requirements of performing work within a group of people belonging under the jurisdiction of the employer organization. Switching your PC to a Mac will not solve any of these problems, more likely it will just deliver a more siloed environment for information work, as the tools lack the characteristics which would support the work of real life business teams.

The real beef in the Shadow IT movement has always been in its ability to support ad-hoc collaboration between parties that:

  1. May be located behind several different firewalls
  2. Don’t share any common IT systems
  3. Don’t have a clear decision maker.

This way the can be seen as something that can help to expand the area where information systems support the day-to-day information work, since Corporate IT by definition isn’t well suited as a service provider for such a landscape, whereas for Shadow IT this is the natural inhabitant. Cloud apps can fill the gaps in existing and emerging workflows of teams at a speed that cannot be matched by any other approach, so simply banning them would be the equivalent of cutting away employee access to the public Internet and instead forcing people to perform their information searches in the corporate library of physical books. Then again, expecting the cloud apps to come and replace existing enterprise software just like that is an equally absurd idea. They should be seen as a quick way to experiment with a new idea, knowing that the same time next year the service will probably no longer be used.

Hardware matters, but software rules. Time spent on arguing whether the employees should be doing their work on a PC, iPad or Galaxy S4 will not yield any long term ROI, the way I see it. The BYOD discussion should in my opinion be BYOA (Bring Your Own Apps): the quest for finding a way to live in the middle of an ever growing and evolving app cloud that surrounds us at work and at home – and especially on the road between the two.

Looking at it from the employee perspective, the phenomenon is actually BYOW – Bring Your Own Work onto your personally chosen platforms of IT hardware and services. Now that the ownership of production equipment no longer is solely the right of corporations as there’s a factory in every pocket and a tablet on every desk, the traditional 1:N relationship between employer:employee will become N:N for a growing share of information workers. Which, from the Corporate IT perspective, is again a much more significant phenomenon to deal with than the discussion on which OS’s and devices should be supported.

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4 Responses

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  1. Pedro Innecco says

    Great follow-up, Jukka. Didn’t know about Gartner’s hype chart. Love it!

    Just one thing: ISO is boring? I’m hurt… 🙂

    Shall we expect a follow-up on big data? This is hype annoys me more than BYOx 😉

  2. Jukka says

    Thanks, Pedro! I actually think the Hype Cycle is quite a useful tool for observing how the various trends are gaining and losing traction out there in the Big World. A few years ago I read Gartner’s book on it (Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time) and I can recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the process of technology adoption. Hype in itself shouldn’t be considered a negative thing, as it’s rather a part of the natural evolution that technologies go through. Similarly, I wouldn’t say BYOD will not have any real impact on corporations, but rather that it’s important to observe many of the supporting trends around it and not just discuss whether sales reps need iPads or not.

    Big Data, that is certainly an even more hyped up term right now. From a practical perspective I think it’s harder to get a grasp of than BYOD, as the factors affecting the latter one can be observed in almost all organizations performing information work, whereas Big Data tends to lead the discussion to Big organizations and Big online services. Let me ask you a question instead: do you see the technologies and practices involved with the Big Data trend becoming something during 2014 that an SMB organization should start paying attention to?

  3. Pedro Innecco says

    Thanks for the book recommendation. Just ordered it on Amazon for the Kindle!

    As for your question. I think that ‘data’ is certainly something that every company should consider, no matter their size. If companies focus on the ‘data’ bit, the ‘big’ bit will come eventually when they’re ready. I reckon that it is important that an organisation learns how to walk before they run, considering that ‘big data’ means a big set of unstructured data.

    Analysing data requires an investment not only in IT, but also in analysts that know what they are doing. A good example was posted by a good friend of mine on his Google+ page, on how to calculate average ratings correctly:

    The link above illustrates how someone with little to know knowledge on statistics can make a mistake. In my view, this illustrates how data analysts must keep in touch not only with IT, but also with statistics [*]. I wouldn’t expect somebody to know the best analytical method for every scenario from the top of their heads; but they must be aware of their limitations and strive for improving not only in IT, but also in statistics. Having some million Euros funky BI solution means NOTHING if one doesn’t understand statistics.

    [*] What the heck, a year ago I didn’t even know what a confidence interval was — let alone a Wilson score or a Bernoulli parameter. Is like you motto, which I took on heart: I am more interested in what I can learn than in what I can teach.

  4. Jukka says

    I just came across this slide about “Big Data is like teenage sex”, which I think describes the current situation quite accurately 😉

    Big Data is like teenage sex

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