While many companies were tentatively poking a toe in the BYOD waters, VMWare did a cannonball, requiring all 6,000 US employees to take over ownership of company-supplied smartphones.
CIO.com has a feature based on an interview with VMWare CIO Mark Egan. Late last year, VMWare embarked on the first phase -- smartphones -- of an ambitious plan to turn the company into a top-to-bottom BYOD enterprise. VMWare told everyone on staff in the US that they had 90 days to switch their company-supplied smartphones to accounts in their own names. After the 3-month window, all the phones still on the company's rolls would stop working.
"BYOD phones tapping into the network fall under VMware's acceptable use policy, giving VMware rights over the device. One is the right to wipe the device," potentially destroying employee data, CIO.com notes.
Does this all sound a bit harsh? It seems that many employees thought so too at first. But the company was ready to deal with the pain with help from its enterprise social network, Socialcast. The Facebook-like network is based on the company of the same name, which VMWare acquired earlier last year.
Though in place for only a few months, Socialcast was already widely used within the company, with fair success. Employees who asked a question on the network usually got one or more answers within a matter of hours.
And they asked a lot of questions while going through the process of transitioning their existing phones from company-liability to personal-liability, which typically involved multiple calls to the wireless carrier. This employee self-service worked well enough that gradually "the tide turned from complaining to acceptance," according to CIO.com.
VMWare wasn't throwing all of the smartphone cost back on employees, though one of the goals of the program was to save some money. VMWare would still pay the carrier bills, up to a ceiling varying by employee function (e.g., higher for quota-carrying sales staff). CIO.com notes that one of the hidden costs BYOD programs can incur is the suddenly larger number of employees who turn in expense reports each month -- expense reports that need to be processed at a cost of up to $20 per. VMWare is mitigating this potential problem by allowing the employees who don't routinely file monthly reports (roughly half of the BYOD total) to do so quarterly.
Egan, the CIO, said he expects the smartphone BYOD program to result in savings this year in the range of seven figures, or around $200 per employee.
Now for the hard part
The next phase of VMWare's planning is even more ambitious: in another quarter they will begin moving tablets and laptops under the BYOD umbrella. Egan nodded to two VMWare products that should be useful in this process: Horizon Application Manager, which functions like an enterprise app store, and ThinApp, which lets desktop apps run on tablets.
Our blogger Jim Frey, who knows a thing or two about enterprise BYOD, wondered why Egan had not mentioned VMware View, a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) solution:
VDI solutions are gaining favor as part of BYOD initiatives because they sequester the actual PC operating environment (and consequently all of the data with which the user interacts) in a central server and on central storage. This provides advantages for data security and system integrity. So why is it that Egan fails to mention View as part of his strategy?... It may be that the reporter never thought to ask... In any event, it's a huge missed opportunity for VMware and the View product team.
VMWare's experience is going to be worth keeping an eye on as it unfolds. They are embracing BYOD in a more thoroughgoing way than most other enterprises.