March 22, 2012 (Featured on www.Forbes.com)- I spend of lot of time talking with CIOs and other executives about how they can take advantage of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs to boost productivity, increase user satisfaction, and, in many cases, reduce their overall mobility spending.

It’s not unusual in these discussions for these executives to ask outright, “What should our BYOD cost policy be?”, or “What are other companies in my industry doing?”.    What I find interesting about these questions is that, while they’re definitely good questions to ask, they’re often focused more on implementation details (the “how”), and much less on overall business objectives (the “why”).

Very often when I’m asked these questions, rather than answer immediately, I’ll first ask the following question, “What are your business objectives for your BYOD program?”    The reason I do this is simple:   the “how” becomes much easier to figure out when you first know the “why”.  In this blog, I’ll provide some concrete examples of BYOD business objectives.   It’s worth noting that these objectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though they may appear to be at first glance.  In a follow-up post, I will then share some of the best practices that companies are adopting to align BYOD program elements and policies with their key business objectives.

Objective: Reduce Company’s Mobile Spending

This is a very common business objective and there’s a strong correlation between the importance of this objective to the company, and how the company handles things like participation, stipends, and/or “expense-back” for its BYOD users.    Companies with reduced mobility spending as their primary objective typically do not provide any stipends, or expense-back options for their BYOD users.    Instead, they capitalize on user passion for devices like the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 and say, “If you want to use your personal iPhone for work, you can but the Company isn’t going to pay any of your costs if you do.”

Survey data finds Finance and Healthcare industries dominate the BYOD picture and that company employees are willing to pay device and service plan costs if they can use their own devices.

And guess what, it works!   Good Technology, the company I work for, recently surveye of our largest customers to learn more about their level of BYOD support and related best practices.  In that survey, we found that over 70 percent of our largest customers are already formally supporting BYOD programs, and half of them are taking the “user pays for everything” approach.    One example of a company taking this approach is Union Bank, which now has nearly 2,000 users participating in its “user pays” BYOD program.

Objective: Satisfy User Demands for Device Choice

This is also a common objective that is sometimes, but not always, linked to the “reduce mobile spending” objective.   In many cases, companies focused primarily on satisfying user demands for device choice will narrowly target their existing base of “company-owned” device users.   Those users are demanding support for the iPhones, Android smartphones, and iPads that they already use in their personal lives and companies increasingly recognize that trying to equip these users with the “latest and greatest” out of their own IT budgets just doesn’t work very well.

As a result, many of these companies have enabled formal BYOD programs, but often structure around a “manager approval” model to govern and limit program participation. This allows these companies to target their existing mobile user base and satisfy demands for device choice within that base, but not open up BYOD participation more broadly across the company.

Objective: Boost Overall Productivity and Worker Mobility

Companies whose primary objective is to boost productivity and worker mobility are sometimes, but not always, also looking to reduce spending.   And they rarely seek to limit program participation.    On the contrary, they recognize the inherent value in a more mobile, connected, and productive workforce and are often willing to increase mobility spending to achieve that objective.

In structuring their BYOD programs, these companies often utilize stipends to achieve a balance between productivity and cost objectives and will often structure “tiered” stipends where stipends vary by role and provide more control from a productivity benefit vs. stipend cost perspective.     Avnet, a leading, multi-billion dollar distributor of software and hardware, has taken this approach and has been able to simultaneously boost its overall mobility and productivity and reduce its spending by 10-15 percent at the same time.

In my next post, I’ll provide more insight into specific best practices associated with these three broad objectives.   In the meantime, if your company is considering a formal BYOD program, you should ask yourself and your colleagues, “Why are we doing this?”   The range answers you get may surprise you, and the process of agreeing on “why” will make the “how” that much easier to figure out.

Bring Your Own Device