The Impact of BYOD on the Service Desk

By: Jeff Brandt, Solutions Director of Technology Support Services at Randstad Technologies

The growing trend toward BYOD will continue to pose challenges for allocating service desk resources more creatively and accommodating users’ needs. For any service desk managers who’ve been holding out hope that the BYOD trend would fizzle or even reverse itself, abandon all hope: it’s not going to happen.

The research firm IDC predicts that the annual worldwide growth rate in BYOD adoption will average around 25 percent a year, growing from 175 million workers in 2014 to 328 million workers in 2017. Gartner forecasts that by 2017, 90 percent of organizations will support some aspect of BYOD, and that by 2018, there will be twice as many employee-owned devices used in the workplace than enterprise-owned devices.

The reasons for this rapid growth are easy to see. Assessing only tablet usage, Gartner found that IT departments can support almost three times as many users in BYOD programs than in company-purchased tablet programs. According to Gartner, direct costs of user-owned tablets are 64 percent lower, with almost all of the savings from eliminating device acquisition costs. The enterprise can either buy 1,000 tablets or support 2,745 user-owed tablets at the same cost. The bottom line for the service desk is that support for employee-owned mobile devices, primarily smartphones and tablets, is only going to grow.

The impact that BYOD is having on service desk workloads is already apparent. When the 2014 HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Survey asked participants to account for the 57-percent increase in trouble ticket volumes, 26 percent of respondents attributed the increase to the “use of personal equipment/devices” and 23 percent to “supporting mobile devices.” From the users’ perspective, many indicate that they aren’t thrilled with the level of support they’re receiving for their devices. When a recent CDW survey asked BYOD participants to grade the effectiveness of their organization’s BYOD policies and tech support on a scale of A to F, only four out of 10 of the non-IT professionals who responded gave an A or B grade.

The Gartner study mentioned above concluded that companies need to find the right level of support for BYOD programs to capture the potential cost savings. Establishing and maintaining support for user-owned devices requires forethought and planning if a significant cost-savings goal is to be realized. There was a school of thought that if users were allowed to use their own devices instead of corporate-supplied devices, support levels would decrease, or at least not grow much. After all, if someone uses their own device both at home and at work, they should become familiar enough with it to solve most problems that might arise. Apparently, that hasn’t been the case. What does seem to be the case is that people acquire new devices with such frequency that just when they’ve mastered the details of their current device — presto — they’ve got a new one to learn. This is particularly the case with smartphones.

Supporting user-owned devices is different

The technical stumbling block that most often poses problems for users has to do with core messaging (email, text, voicemail), the most widely used mobile functions. According to the CDW survey, the other prominent areas of support for BYOD have to do with accessing organizational data, storing organizational data/documents, viewing/creating documents, collaboration (conferencing, webinars, document sharing), and process or project management. Support for these issues will depend on corporate objectives and guidelines for their BYOD approach. Not all of them might be relevant or there might be other issues for an organization, such as support for proprietary applications. Keep in mind that user-owned devices that are used both in the office and at home are more likely to be exposed to malware. Security guidelines should be clearly communicated and rigorously enforced. It would be unfortunate if the workload on the service desk increased due to malware-related problems.

The first step to mitigating the support problems associated with BYOD programs is to fashion formal policies that specify which devices/operating systems are supported. In most instances, the list will include laptops, tablets, and smartphones that run Windows, OS X, iOS, or Android. Going beyond this, the version(s) supported should also be specified. There is some speculation that the mobile version of Windows might be more widely embraced in the future, as its seamless integration with desktop applications becomes more of a reality, so firms should keep an eye on its market penetration progress.

BYOD policies should be detailed but easy to understand, and they should be regularly communicated to the users as policies evolve to include or exclude devices. In the absence of easy-to-understand guidelines, the service desk becomes the “go to” authority for policy related questions. Eliminating these types of calls can help the service desk run more efficiently. For example, a company might decide that the only user-owned devices supported are iPhones and iPads. Users should understand that if they use other devices to get their email or access corporate information, they may not work and likely won’t be supported by the service desk. Setting user expectations up front is an important function of the written BYOD policies.

A portion of this piece originally appeared in HDI Support World. To view, click here (subscription required).

Jeff Brandt is an industry veteran at Randstad Technologies with more than 15 years of experience at all levels of Service Desk Solutions delivery including managing individual service desks and delivery centers for more than 300 analysts. He is an HDI-certified Help Desk Manager and has worked with numerous client technologies and support systems for interaction, incident and knowledge management. Jeff has extensive experience in support environments within the government and higher education verticals. He holds a Business Information Systems degree from Messiah College.

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