Xigo on tablets in enterprise: ‘Will BYOD turn out to be a home run or a foul ball?’

May 8, 2012

The bring-your-own-device trend has been all the rage of late, and featured prominently at TabTimes’ Tablet Strategy conference in New York City last month. But what’s the downside of this popular trend, and what issues still need to be resolved? TabTimes spoke to Dave Snow, chief marketing officer (CMO) of telecom expense management firm Xigo, to find out more.

Through Xigo Enterprise, you’ve seen a lot of customers deploy tablets. How is that playing out?

Most of our customers are becoming deeply impacted by tablets. A lot of them are doing very well but some are honestly struggling because they took on tablets in a reactive way. They’re now finding that they have a myriad of problems on their doorstep.

What are the successful guys doing differently?

They’re taking it on as a strategic initiative, and see tablet as a way to greater enhance a product or service delivery, compress a sales or service process, or expand the time availability of their employees. We’ve certainly seen a great many positive cases of that.

What kind of customers have you been working with?

Our clients range from Fortune 100 companies to those smaller firms in health and retail, as well as quite a few government agencies. Intel is probably our largest customers in terms of global deployments of our Xigo Enterprise product, but the US Army is the largest in terms of the total number of services under management.

Do you see any cross-over between company-purchased and bring-your-own tablets among your client base?

A great many of our clients are moving from corporately liable to partially liable or just BYOD programs, but many are struggling with this.

We need to try and get some understanding to see if BYOD is the way of the future, or if it is a foul ball. It sounds very appealing, as end-users can get their own devices, and corporations can shift expenses. But when you start to peel the onion what we have seen is that the number of BYOD programs are surprisingly low.

Why do you think adoption is so low?

I think there are three things coming to the surface. Firstly, not every employee can go and spend $1,000 on a fully configured iPad, and there’s certainly an issue around what happens when you shift the operating expense to the user for repairs and replacements. If someone breaks a device, how does it get paid for, and are these employees essentially out of business while the device is down?

The third reason is more subtle, and it’s on this personal space issue. Companies need to protect data on personal devices, but we’ve seen cases where enterprise policy is viewed by the employee as evasive. These users then understand the whole picture and what the security policy might inflict on them, and say that it might be too much. So they stick with the corporate plan.

There are a lot of issues here that need to be taken into account.

What would you suggest then to anyone deploying or thinking about using tablets in business?

There are probably two recommendations we should to make to anyone deploying tablets.

  1. We think companies should be more aggressive negotiating data pooling plans from service providers, as it still absolutely one of the best ways to reduce costs overall. Some carriers have resisted it because they benefit from under and over usage, but the data pooling plan kills that. Ask your service provider if they have one; if they say no ask again, and if they still resist, let them know that you’ll be speaking to other service providers.
  2. Companies need to be aware of the drag-along costs associated with tablet usage. Services like WebEx and GoToMeeting look free after you’ve paid the licensee fee but there are incremental fees. If you’re dialling into an 800 number, you’re paying nine or 18 cents a minute, which is 40 times more than a standard enterprise voice call. And if you’re inviting people to this conference, then you’re taking the bill.

As you mentioned earlier, this personal space issue is tricky. How can companies get around this?

I think that a secure space for enterprise data and apps might win the day, and if I had to place a bet today, I’d say that some kind of virtualized space will be the winner.

You raised an interesting point on pushing expenses to the employee earlier. What do you make of expensive data plans? Surely that’s also hindering adoption?

Some companies are asking guys to go out and buy an iPad for $300-400, and then service it on their own. Most employees can’t do that and that’s where the collision is.

This is where BYOD is a roadblock; the employee can’t or doesn’t want to deal with a long two or three year contract from Verizon Wireless, Vodafone or ATT.

You’ve said yourself that you’d love to bring your own device into work, so do you think BYOD will take hold eventually?

You’re right that I want my own device in work and it’s likely that it [BYOD] is not a passing fad, but we won’t see that broad adoption until we get to a place where there’s a virtual workspace to control work content securely.

I don’t think BYOD will be a foul ball, but I do think adoption will be a lot slower than some writers would have you believe.

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