Bring Your Own… Choice

It’s one of the hot topics at the moment, Bring Your Own Device. Institutions and companies around the world are searching for an answer. I think the problem is that they are looking for the answer rather than answers. 

At a strategy level its nice to think that there is a neat little solution to everything, but as we zoom in we start to see that things aren’t quite how they seem. The same principles that apply to the universe – the rules and functions of planets and galaxies are thrown out the window when we get to an atomic or sub-atomic level. In business we know that what gets decided in the boardroom has little to do with the actual service being conducted on the ground.

Maybe as humans we need to have things simplified, which leads me nicely to my point. The BYO movement is about choice. It’s about empowering staff, students and customers, with the freedom to choose.

In a broad and quite general sense enterprise and large scale IT has worked on the assumption that one size fits all. Big servers, big systems, big numbers & big costs. Then along comes the cloud which offers a new way of doing and thinking about IT. It offers scalable, customisable and adaptable systems and applications. It provides flexibility and freedom to choose what it is you want and have the system customised to what you need.

Cloud thinking has now, for want of a better word, ‘infected’ users with a desire for freedom of choice and the BYOD movement is about bring that freedom to choose to the devices we use everyday.

However, when we start talking about BYOD what seems to get confused is this word – choice. So often it is interpreted through the lens of a capitalist – that its about providing a variety of choices – dozens of them. Colgate can’t just be happy to make toothpaste – they need to make it in 10 exciting flavours, with whitening, with tartar control, in small medium and large sizes, travel versions and one for kids. But no one wants just one option – thats way too communist – they want options that are clear, understandable and curated for their needs, and from that selection they can decide. The freedom to choose is very different to providing a myriad of choices as its about empowerment rather than confusion and entropy.

Technology is confusing and users need guidance through it. Mobile and the cloud has changed what technology means, how we categorise it, label it even use it.  The language, the jargon and the taxonomies that have emerged over the last 5 years challenge previous knowledge – its like someone redefined all the words.

The biggest problem with the one size fits all approach is that it never serviced the individual. An open BYOD policy is actually worse as its a cop out that removes responsibility and costs away from the business and onto the user. It puts the onus on the user not on the business to cope with changing technology. It’s up to the technologically challenged to navigate through a quick treacherous period of rapid change and development.

BYOD needs to be seen as a chance to engage with our users, not an opportunity to shift responsibility.

So what’s my solution? I think it about the business actually working on defining concerns, issues, risks and then matching them to the needs of the business to form a matrix that users can easily navigate and make appropriate choices. I liked the approach outlined here on Lifehacker as a starting point.

  • On your own
  • Bring your own
  • Choose your own
  • Here’s your own

Matching the YO headings to a scale that takes into account the business requirements – support, security, privacy, access, funding etc – is the next step.

One final thought for this post.

We no longer live in a single device world. All of us have multiple devices that we interact with at home, at work and on our person. Just as we should be looking for answers to BYOD, so too should we be thinking devices – plurals rather than singulars. Part of the BYOD discussion needs to discuss what different devices should be used for and why. Some devices lend themselves to the personal parts of our work others are explicitly part of the work we do, and in this sense different devices should be treated differently. A tablet should not be treated the same way as a laptop, desktop or a smartphone – they should each have their own place and purpose in the strategy.

I don’t think you get mobile…

It’s a little late and I should be in bed with a book, but instead my face is lit up from the glow of my iPad as I succumb to the need to write down my thoughts.

A friend posted an article titled “Why Mobile Will Dominate the Future of Media and Advertising“. After reading it I had to stop and pause. Something was amiss and then i thought “I don’t think they understand mobile”.

I agree that mobile is the next big thing. It is the latest and greatest technology and it has created a new marketplace. It’s also created new opportunities and new business models. It is a change agent – and that’s the crucial bit that seems to be missing – change! Mobile = change.

It’s a new paradigm and it requires new methods. I like the phrase – what happened in the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future – it sums up what mobile is and what it represents.

So when they state:

“consumers are spending 10% of their media attention on their mobile devices while the medium only commands a mere 1% of total ad-spend … “dying” print medium attracts only about 7% of media-time, but still captures an astonishing 25% of the total U.S. ad-spend, with print receiving 25-times more ad money than mobile.”

I don’t think they’ve comprehended the change required to engage with mobile. It’s not the same medium as print and you cannot follow the traditional “whack an ad on it” model, because it won’t work.

Mobile has created a marketplace and an audience – but it’s new, and it requires new ways of thinking and acting. I really don’t think that traditional advertising works in mobile. Consumers might have been willing to suffer through it before, simply because they had no choice and no control of the platform. With mobile they do and unless there is a tangible benefit advertising will just get in the way. And if you piss people off in a mobile space, you’ve pissed them off in their personal space, in their home and to their face! You may as well have peed on their rug.

Mobile marketing will require investment – not in pretty pictures, glossy magazine spreads or CGI heavy commercials. No, you will need to invest in your customers, in your product and in the experience your service provides – exactly the platform that mobile provides…. Funny that 🙂

6 Billion Mobile Connections by the end of 2011

Wireless Intelligence, the research arm of the trade group GSMA,  is forecasting about 6.07 billion connections by the close of the year. While it may sound like an outlandish prediction you do have to remember that the UN is already saying there are 5.2 billion users.

Mobile is huge and there is massive growth predicted for the Asia Pacific region which will account for 50 percent of world wide connections by year-end.