Writing a business case for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) projects

In a recent article on BYOD Deloitte said

A successful BYOD initiative turns risk into a programme of business enablement.

This may be the aim but in reality most BYOD schemes start out of necessity rather than because they are seeking business value. However like most IT initiatives a business case should proceed the official project to confirm funding and to set our the goals and ROI of the initiative.

In my view the following 5 subjects should form the core of any BYOD business case.

Cost Savings
The initial assumption is that a BYOD project will lower costs because the employee is supplying the device rather than the employer but unfortunately this is not the case. In a recent survey 67% of European IT professionals thought BYOD would increase costs and in my view they are right. Clearly this is not a good start to a business case but these costs need to be specified and off-set against other advantages (which we will discuss later). So why does cost increase?

Firstly you need to remember that although there is a vocal minority that will demand a BYOD scheme a lot of employees will not want to be included in these initiatives and specifically employees on median income are generally unprepared to bear any cost. This means that if you want to initiate a company wide programme you will need to provide an employee with enough financial incentive to buy their device and as any money provided is liable to income tax (at least in the UK) and as the cost of any device purchased privately would be increased by non-reclaimable sales tax (VAT) the actual cost of the device would be considerably more than a company bought equivalent. Similarly a typical SmartPhone allowance is between £30 to £50 and this can be more expensive than a corporately negotiated deal.

Secondly increased Wifi coverage is one of the reasons for the growth of BYOD but conversely a BYOD initiative may require a company to provide better WiFi coverage. If you think that some employees may now have a laptop, a phone and a tablet all using IP addresses and WiFi bandwidth it is clear that the network may need upgrading. This may be more critical in educational establishments where there are thousands of students.

Lastly because of the obvious security risks of BYOD you will need to provide a Mobile Device Management (MDM) security solution so that devices can be catalogued, security policies can be applied and devices can be wiped or locked when the phone is lost of stolen.

It is not all negative. There are some positives that can be mentioned in the business case to off-set some of these costs:

  • Organisations that offer top ups may encourage employees to buy better devices which can help improve productivity further
  • Employee ownership of the device may mean that they last longer as the employees will look after them better
  • Support costs may go down as the support is passed to the employee. For example an upgrade of an iOS device will typically be performed by the employee on the day it is available and needs no intervention from the employer. You will of course need to decide how you want to handle support for these devices – in our experience employee forums work well which again can reduce costs.

Productivity is the most important part of a BYOD business case and 80% of business cases use this as the main driver. The main reason for this is the increased working hours that BYOD can bring. Instead of the 30 minutes every morning when an employee catches up on emails that have been sent since the time they left the previous day until they arrived the next morning they are now able to read emails on the train home, on the way in or even whilst they are sitting at home that evening. This increases working hours by a conservative estimate of 10%.

You should probably also be aware that some employees may take advantage of having their own devices to use Twitter or Facebook during the working day but you may find that these employees are the same employees who would have wated time in other ways.

Lastly BYOD schemes may improve productivity by giving technology to people who don’t usually have access to technology at all.

Employee Satisfaction
BYOD is now seen as a tool to attract and retain employees especially amongst younger members of staff. A recent survey of 20 – 30 year olds said that 50% see BYOD as a right and not a privilege. Clearly as time moves on this view will become the majority and so if your company does not have a scheme you may not attract or retain the brightest employees.

Understanding the Consumer
Some organisations (such as retail) are using consumer devices within their stores to make themselves be viewed as technical leaders however often in these cases the devices will be bought and owned by the organisation rather than the employee.

In addition to the image this portrays businesses can use iPads to show a potential customer more merchandise and also automatically adjust prices based on their competitors prices. This also reduces the need for printing or marketing materials. You only need to go into an Apple store to see how affective this can be.

The last point is that retail employees can check availability immediately and also tell the customer when the requested product will be available and all without leaving the shop floor.

Operational Flexibility
Operational Flexibility is often overlooked but is important for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly we all know that over the last few years employees can suddenly be forced to work from home due to industrial action,extreme weather or even terrorist acts. BYOD means that this unplanned home working need no longer be lost time.

Secondly if you are in an industry where there are a lot of mergers and acquisitions then a BYOD policy can help by treating the new companies devices as BYOD whilst the company is incorporated into your standards and policies.

Lastly if you are in a high growth phase BYOD can speed up new employee take on.  Similarly if you have a lot of short term workers or contractors a BYOD policy can reduce the time spent provisioning new devices for these sort of employees.

General Business Case Rules
Lastly before you start looking at the specifics it is worth understanding some general business case rules so you are clear what you are trying to achieve when you start writing.

In general the aim of the business case should be to tell a rich, clear story of how the value proposition will work, specifically what will happen when the proposed project is in place, what will be different and when, where, and how will the economic value be created. Importantly for each driver you specify you will need to estimate the economic benefits gained from implementing the proposal:

  • What is the impact on revenue, if any?
  • What is the impact on costs?
  • If employee efficiency is a factor, will the headcount actually be reduced?
  • Are there any one-time pickups of cash or reductions in capital needs?
  • Is the benefit realised one time or on a recurring basis?

To answer these questions and quantify savings in the business case you will need to identify the fully burdened cost of a Full Time Employee (FTE) for each type of affected employee. The cost of these FTEs should include items like office space, employer tax, pension payments and all other benefits and will therefore be a significantly larger figure than you would expect. For example the current range of values for companies we have already analysed are £320 – £450 per day. Additionally you will also need to know how many hours each type of employee at your company is expected to work (e.g. 7 hours per day) and how many working business days they are expected to work (usually about 230).

If you are interested in running your BYOD scheme or want to discuss anything in this blog then give me a call at Orb Data on +44 (0) 1628 550450 or email me at simon.barnes@orb-data.com . You can also follow me on Twitter at @OrbData.

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