Bring-your-own-device strategies are the single most radical change to the economics and culture of client computing in a decade, according to a new study by Gartner.
One radical change BYOD is expected to spawn: By 2017, half of all employers will require workers to supply their own devices for work purposes. Also, Gartner says, enterprises that offer only corporately-owned smartphones or stipends to buy your own will soon become the exception to the rule.
As enterprise BYOD programs proliferate, 38% of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016 and let them use their own, according to a global survey of CIOs by Gartner, Inc.'s Executive Programs.
BYOD adoption currently varies widely.
Companies in the United States are twice as likely to allow BYOD as those in Europe, where BYOD has the lowest adoption of all the regions. In contrast, employees in India, China and Brazil are most likely to be using a personal device, typically a standard mobile phone, at work, according to Gartner.
The study also states that by 2015, the number of employees using mobile applications in the workplace will double. Today, roughly half of BYOD programs provide partial reimbursement.
Gartner believes that with mass-market adoption of BYOD and the steady decline in carrier fees, employers will gradually reduce subsidies. And as the number of workers using a mobile device expands, those who receive a subsidy will decline, according to David Willis, a distinguished analyst at Gartner.
"The enterprise should subsidize only the service plan on a smartphone," Willis said in a statement. "What happens if you buy a device for an employee and they leave the job a month later? How are you going to settle up? Better to keep it simple. The employee owns the device, and the company helps to cover usage costs."
At the same time, employers recognize the benefits of BYOD, such as new mobile workforce opportunities, better employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.
Gartner defines a BYOD plan as an alternative strategy that allows employees, business partners and others to use a personally selected and purchased client device to execute enterprise applications and access data. BYOD typically includes smartphones and tablets, but the strategy may also be used for PCs. It may or may not include a subsidy.
Security is the top BYOD concern, according to the Gartner study.
The risk of data leaks on mobile platforms is particularly acute today. Some mobile devices are designed to share data in the cloud and have no general-purpose file system for applications to share, increasing the potential for data to be easily duplicated between applications and moved between applications and the cloud.
One new capability being touted by vendors to corporations that have a BYOD strategies is dual persona smart phones, which offer one interface for personal use and another for business use.
BlackBerry and Samsung today each launched security and management software with dual-personality features for their latest Z10 and Galaxy S4 smartphones.
Even with the security concerns, however, companies are acutely aware that BYOD drives innovation for CIOs and the business by increasing the number of mobile application users in the workforce, Gartner said.
Rolling out applications throughout the workforce presents myriad new opportunities beyond traditional mobile email and communications. Applications such as time sheets, punch lists, site check-in/check-out, and employee self-service HR applications are but a few examples.
Expanding access and driving innovation will ultimately be the legacy of the BYOD phenomenon, Gartner contends.
"However, the business case for BYOD needs to be better evaluated," Willis said. "Most leaders do not understand the benefits, and only 22% believe they have made a strong business case. Like other elements of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), mobile initiatives are often exploratory and may not have a clearly defined and quantifiable goal, making IT planners uncomfortable."
"If you are offering BYOD, take advantage of the opportunity to show the rest of the organization the benefits it will bring to them and to the business," he added.
Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.