Thursday, 12 July 2012

BYOD meets software licensing

BYOD - bring your own device - is the new black in IT trends - the concept being that employees bring their own device to do work and because all these great cloud services out there - Google Apps, Evernote, Windows Live to name but three,  and suggesting that they and you don't need to worry overmuch about software distribution, device standards, upgrades and all the rest of that painful shit that's kept me in a job these last thirty years, because you can do it all through a web browser.

Certainly as far as the student body is concerned, BYOD is a no brainer. Campus is crawling with students with their own laptops using web apps and doing stuff. The library has opened up individual study areas and it's full of students doing things on their laptops and tablets.  While I'm sure some are playing fruit ninja, most of them are not.

We don't know what they do and what they connect to but we do know that given pervasive internet they will use it. A lot.

So, we could conclude that, save for access to specialist software, eg engineering simulation packages student computer labs are dead. Everything is on the web, and everyone has a device that can access what they need.

Now we turn to staff. I'm running a couple of projects and have recently taken on a couple of new team members. Both started out by volunteering to try BYOD.

After all, all they needed to do was write some code, document it it, produce some reports and upload it to our collaboration service - which is based on Sakai and has a web based interface.

Both lasted about three days. It turned out that they needed Office and they needed access to some other tools. They could have bought them themselves but that didn't seem fair, and software licensing agreements meant that we couldn't just give them a copy and ask them to uninstall them at the end of their contracts.

Libre/Open Office didn't do it, and the standard templates weren't there. GoogleDocs for much the same reason. No presentation templates. And to cap it all our webmail service wasn't up to it (personally I pipe mine through to gmail).

So taking the line of least resistance they both now have corporate desktops.

Now this isn't an ummitigated tale of woe. It's a learning experience.

I've had what is essentially an unsupported macbook as my work machine for years, but it's a corporate machine and I have an officially licensed copy of office. I have a correctly licensed copy of office at home - it means I can work from home should I want to. I thought BYOD would work. It probably would have if licensing wasn't a problem.

So to make BYOD work for you, you need (a) to know what applications people really need, (b) consider if its cost effective to make changes to use the cloud based alternatives and (c) if it isn't, have an effective mitigation strategy in place. You also probably need to think about browser standards especially if people are using something odd eg a PowerPC version of Linux for otherwise perfectly sensible reasons ...

BYOD isn't hype, it can work, you just need to have a proper strategy and set of policies around it

1 comment:

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