Bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) is no longer driven by do-it-yourselfers choosing their own devices for work — instead, a rapidly growing population of workers across industries and regions is embracing a wide spectrum of bring your own “fill-in-the-blank.” BYOT now spans hardware, platforms, and apps, plus cloud services like storage and collaboration.

Just how big is this trend? According to Forrester's Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q4 2011, of nearly 10,000 workers worldwide, 53% bring their own technology for work. The rapid growth of mobile BYOT devices within business is reminiscent of Web adoption during the mid-1990s. After early handwringing and resistance, followed by rapid growth and innovation, the Web emerged as an indispensable tool. No one thinks twice now about using the Web for work. BYOT will follow a similar pattern.

Features like remote-wipe and support for Microsoft Exchange have made it relatively easy for IT to secure laptops, smartphones, and tablets. However, a more diverse range of devices with different operating systems, along with the proliferation of cloud-based software like Dropbox and Evernote, are creating new challenges. As a result, IT execs are doubling down on information and BYOT governance, coupled with corporate cloud-based solutions to stay ahead of employee behavior.

Two strong forces — working in opposition — are propelling, and slowing, BYOT adoption:

  1. Systems of engagement must expand beyond customers — to include employees with mobile devices.  For example, pharmaceuticals and professional services organizations are either buying mobile devices for employees or allowing workers to bring their favorite devices to work. While the strategic push is supporting customers’ mobility needs — many organizations also need mobility for customer-facing workers. Giving field service reps smart devices and apps to help in repairing products at customer locations or encouraging retail clerks to use smart devices to research items for shoppers while in the store are two powerful examples of arming employees with mobility (and BYOT).
  2. But . . . security casts a v-e-r-y long shadow — particularly in hyper-security-conscious industries. Sectors like government, banking, and certain types of insurance, to name a few, will move more slowly toward employee mobility and BYOT because of security concerns. Some believe the damage from a security breach is so high, the risk so tangible, and the employee productivity gains so unimportant that they restrict all but the most minimal support for provisioned or BYOT mobile devices. These industries have often built their mobility strategy around RIM because they believe BlackBerry devices are the only truly secure device, and even then they put restrictions on its usage. Firms in other industries are cautiously optimistic that Apple will provide sufficient security but are still moving forward slowly.

We’ve identified four BYOT patterns across industries, based on our mobility and security index. They are called: 1) the fortress; 2) the walled city; 3) the road; and 4) the open field. Industries map to these behavior patterns, depending on organizational attitudes toward mobility and security that propel or slow adoption.  

My BYOT research this year has resulted in one published report, “Charting The Rising Tide Of Bring-Your-Own Technology– A BT Futures Report” and another, “Industry Contexts And Constraints Create Different Approaches to BYOT,” will be published soon. 

To learn more about BYOT trends and patterns, Jamie Warner and I invite you to join our webinar, "Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) Takes Off – But Industry Adoption Is Driven By Mobility And Security Needs." It’s on December 3rd, 2012, from 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. -7 p.m. GMT). We hope to see you there.