BYOD Driving Up IT Mobile Support Costs

By | Jul 17, 2012

These are boom times for vendors and specialists in mobile device management technology. For IT departments at most midsize firms, the news may not be so good. The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in the workplace is driving a spike in mobile-device costs.

The problem is not simply that the total number of mobile devices is growing as more and more employees replace their old "feature" cellphones with smartphones. The cost of handling each individual mobile device also seems to be rising sharply.

Mobile Support Costs Skyrocketing

As Matt Hamblen reports at Computerworld, a new survey by Osterman Research has found that the BYOD movement will push IT's mobile management costs up by an eye-popping--and IT budget-busting--48% this year as compared with 2011.

Funded by cloud services firm Azaleos, the survey was based on interviews with IT professionals at 117 midsize to large firms.

The Osterman study puts some additional numbers on the costs that IT departments are shouldering to deal with mobile devices in the workplace, especially employees' smartphones and tablet devices. In 2011, managing mobile devices required 2.9 full-time IT workers per 1,000 mobile devices to be managed. This year, the number rose to 3.6 full-time workers. It is expected to reach four full-time IT workers per 1,000 devices next year. This amounts to a cost per mobile user rising from $229 per year in 2011 to $339 per year in 2013

A growing number of firms are responding to the price shock by investing in Mobile Device Management (MDM), whether locally implemented or cloud-based. Over one-third of respondents said that the MDM capabilities built into Microsoft Exchange were not sufficient for their growing needs.

Two Sides to Every Coin?

The Osterman findings are, to be sure, good news both for MDM vendors and for individual IT professionals with a background in MDM. Their services are in heavy demand and becoming more so.

On the other hand, for IT managers at midsize firms, the numbers can only confirm their frustration at the BYOD trend. The costs are not made any easier to bear by the widespread perception that the trend has been driven largely by top executives eager to use (and show off) their shiny new latest-and-greatest Apple iGadgets.

There just might be another side to the picture, though harder to nail down and quantify. Employees who bring their own mobile devices to work are arguably saving the company the cost of providing them with company-issued devices. Moreover, while the firm would have more control over such devices, they would not be free of cost.

The proliferation of mobile devices is providing on-the-go employees with data access capabilities that they previously lacked. This is the hardest thing to quantify: We are still learning what mobile computing may be able to add to the bottom line. That means that the final verdict on consumer mobile devices in the workplace may not be out yet.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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