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Part one – employees

BYOD (Bring-your-own-device) has been a hot topic for the past year, but one that seems to be going off-the-boil now. Much has been written about it. This started with dollar signs in correspondents’ eyes as it was seen as a way of letting consumer technology penetrate the workplace for little or no cost although recently this has been debunked as evidence of greater expenditure having moved onto operational cost centres has appeared. Otherwise focus has been on security, legal issues and the pragmatic implications for IT departments.

In this two-part blog series, I propose a potential mental model that can be used to understand the motivations of both employees and digital workplace managers. This can hopefully guide the debate within organisations as this practice moves into maturity.

So what’s a mental model?

A mental model diagram is simply a way of gathering people’s potential motivations about something together and grouping like ones together – it is a sort of affinity diagram. Strictly, they should be based on solid interviewee based research, but as this a starting point I asked around for some examples.

What are employees’ motivations for bringing their own devices?

Let’s look at some of the reasons that employees may go to the trouble, and often personal expense of doing this. Firstly this isn’t a new practice. There have always been those who would prefer a certain type of pen, or a certain notebook rather than taking what was available in the stationery cupboard. In 1996, I used to bring in headphones so I could listen to CDs using my CD-ROM drive. In 1998 I used to get a lift into the office from a friend-of-a-friend. I looked in the back seat and there was a huge tower PC in the back seat. My ride was bringing his personal computer into where he worked to crunch numbers in a spreadsheet because his work computer couldn’t cope.

I’ve collected some potential (and no doubt incomplete) motivations of employees for BYOD in the diagram below:

Some people might be seeking convenience, by reducing complexity or weight, or perhaps not really seeing their work- and personal-life as separate. Others might be wishing to demonstrate their status through their device, by using something that is not universally available, or to be seen to be future-oriented.

Some employees, like my lift-to-work in 1998, might want to use their own device because of limitations in the existing services provided by the organisation. This might be a need for speed or a more optimal solution; a need for greater or enhanced functionality, or perhaps the provided solutions don’t function as they should. The desire to obtain functionality or access that is forbidden would also appear here – accessing Facebook or Twitter using a mobile device when it is blocked using a work computer for example. Then there is the motivation for mobility when normally it wouldn’t be provided (to a certain grade or job role) or when a mobile device has already been refused.

Other motivations of employees may fall into the category of “geekdom”. Some people just have to have the best and the latest, and it might cause them mental strife to have to put up with something run-of-the-mill. Another motivation (often seen in the photographic and musical circles) is “gear acquisition syndrome” when people have to have something to fulfil every niche. Once devices have been acquired there is the geeky motivation to make sure that one’s work services are available on it: either as a backup, or just-in-case, or merely to make sure it works, or simply because it is possible.

Finally there is the sense that employees want to be able to maintain some continuity between the personal life and the workplace: this may be in the form of a personal calendar that needs to be preserved in concert with their work calendar, or if the employee wishes to maintain a single productivity regime such as Getting Things Done (GTD) that requires a single and seamless task list across the whole of one’s life.


So what? Well, now we have a better model of the motivations of the employees we can segment them into groups that are more useful than “the unwashed masses demand to use their iPads”. By using this analysis we can assess how each segment will react to the provision of a BYOD programme, the associated restrictions on services and support, and we can be better prepared to answer the question of “Will their motivation be satisfied?”

Seeking one device and seeking solutions

Employees that have the motivation of convenience are seeking one device. They just want to reduce complexity and weight, and as long as it works they would be happy to use whatever the organisation provides. Those who are seeking a solution will only be sated when their problem is solved. If they are being foiled by poor solutions, poor speed, or being fixed to their desk when they don’t want to be they will of course leap at BYOD programmes and choose any solution to their problem, whether provided by the company, or rogue. But this is an institutional failure of not providing appropriate solutions in the first place.

Seeking continuity

Employees who are seeking continuity with their personal lives are always going to be caught in the middle and probably will never likely to gain the synthesis that they are looking for. This might be expected from short term contractors who won’t want to invest in systems of productivity they know will be short lived.

Seeking cool and seeking status

Employees who are seeking the coolest device for the sake of status, and employees that are seeking the edge for the glory of geekdom, will by definition not be satisfied by what is provided. They are prime candidates for BYOD programmes as they are on the conveyor belt of consumer technology that changes rapidly, and boudaries will just become challenges. Do not underestimate how hard toys will be thrown from their respective prams if these two segments’ motivations are thwarted.

In part two of this post I turn this around and look at the motivations of the organisation, or rather the digital workplace managers.

Chris Tubb is a Benchmarker for IBF and analyst for DWF. He is an intranet consultant and information architect and he had a series of partial successes creating intranets for Orange and France Telecom for 13 years. He occasionally tweets @christubb.

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