Remember, back in the 90s, when the CEO wanted a fancy Apple Mac instead of that staid IBM machine? The IT department (grudgingly) gave in and supported this VIP request. Your company might still have only one CEO, but there definitely seem to be a lot more VIPs today. A plethora of devices ranging from iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, and Android phones have invaded the corporate space in a way that most technology departments did not anticipate even as much as five years ago. This megatrend, known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), of hooking up any device – or at least a great variety of devices – to a secure corporate network is throwing up many interesting challenges and opportunities for companies across the globe. One of the most interesting among these questions: How do you sign up a supplier to manage this increasingly diverse technology environment in a cost-effective yet high-availability basis? The answer impacts both buyers and sellers of outsourcing services.
BUYERS: what to do?
BYOD is driven by both user preference and realisation of the latent business potential by companies. Individuals want to have the same rich user experience on their corporate device as their personal devices. Companies have recognised that new device form factors can improve the productivity of the workforce. So enforcing a hardware policy that does not reflect the realities of the modern workplace is not in anyone’s interest.
But with a proliferation of devices and platforms, there exists a justified fear that the IT landscape will get more complicated. Complexity of technology landscape is a key criterion in determining the pricing, and eventual success, of outsourcing arrangements. So it is important that large companies, which typically have multiple sourcing arrangements with vendors, address this issue early. There are two key aspects of managing for sourcing success in a BYOD world:
- understand the service implications of BYOD: it is just not devices that you are bringing in when you allow different devices into the corporate landscape, it is also new services. The new services may range from a corporate app-store service to VoIP service on user devices. The enterprise service catalogue must be updated to reflect these changes in the environment
- plan ‘services sourcing': modern sourcing contracts move away from volume-based pricing (like no of tickets or incidents) to service outcome-based pricing (like uptime and quality). These type “service sourcing” deals will support a corporate BYOD environment.
A BYOD policy can be a powerful instigator to move towards a services-based sourcing arrangement for many organisations.
VENDORS: what to do?
A non-standard technology landscape for a provider of outsourcing services, especially technology support service, conjures up images of clients' trying to “outsource a problem”. And when company tries to “outsource a problem" without dedicating any effort toward fixing it, without exception, the experiment fails.
A company, which has implemented BYOD correctly is far from a non-standard technology environment.
Rather, the company has created a standard platform for linking a number of different devices — which would make supporting the underlying technology platform easier. Also, here’s a paradoxical side effect of employees bringing over their devices to the corporate network: reduced number of calls to corporate helpdesk. Employees are far more comfortable with their personal devices and tend to resolve minor technical issues themselves. So, BYOD should make the service provider’s job easier.
As with any good sourcing arrangement, to be successful in a BYOD world the vendor needs to:
- understand the client’s technology landscape: BYOD should not be code for years of bad IT policy enforcement. If there is no underlying technology framework tying the devices together, then it truly is a complex technology environment and fears about “outsourcing a problem” are justified.
- Understand service implications: even in an environment where BYOD is set up right, understanding the service implications of a multiple-device environment is important. Whether it is email uptime or maintaining continuous access to a sales application – there are implications on service availability and quality due to BYOD. Understanding these implications and factoring them into the agreed upon service levels will be essential for success.
Since BYOD is new in many companies, suppliers might often benefit from running pilot projects to truly understand the landscape before contractually committing to all service levels. As every executive involved in a sourcing arrangement understands, problems identified before the start of the sourcing relationship have a better probability of being addressed quickly.
BYOD is a relatively recent phenomenon, but technology sourcing has been around for a few decades now and is a matured arena. Technology sourcing has successfully navigated many disruptive changes in the corporate technology landscape – including events like introduction of PCs, the rise of mobile devices and explosion of web services. All of these changes opened up new avenues for the sourcing industry and created the ability to offer innovative services to a wide array of clients. BYOD is no different.
Achieving success in a BYOD world is vital – both for the companies undertaking this shift and for the vendors who partner with these companies. The better prepared both parties are for this shift, the better the business outcomes.
Deepak Bharathan is an IT strategy and outsourcing expert at PA Consulting Group
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