VMware Going 'All In' with BYOD
 
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

In most bring-your-own-device plans, employees are the ones bugging management and IT to support their personal devices for work. But VMware took a much different tack when launching its BYOD program late last year: All 6,000 employees in the U.S. must use their personal smartphones for work.

VMware adopted an aggressive 90-day window for employees to make the transition, which included a looming cut-off date when company-owned smartphones would stop working. "We went all-in" with BYOD for phones, says VMware CIO Mark Egan.

VMware's big bet on BYOD was far from a sure thing. Egan had to rely on a new-fangled enterprise social network to quell employee anger over having to spend their own money on something VMware used to pay for. Egan was also hoping to save money with BYOD, a return on investment that often backfires.

Today, Egan says his goals have been met. But even he is quick to point out that this is only the first stage of his BYOD journey. He went after BYOD smartphones first. Now he plans to expand BYOD this quarter to include laptops and tablets, and so he's wrestling with an entirely new class of complex issues.

But Egan is used to pressure. It was pressure that brought BYOD to VMware in the first place.

The Big, Bad BYOD Mandate

Like many CIOs, Egan found himself in a tight spot that only BYOD had a shot at solving. Pressure was coming from employees claiming they can be more productive using technology of their choosing. Yet a tight IT budget simply couldn't support a huge swath of devices.

"I was getting what I'll call 'feedback' from my business partners that I wasn't offering a broad enough list of devices, as well as getting 'feedback' from our CFO that I was spending too much," Egan says. "I'm losing on both sides."

In the fourth quarter of last year, VMware aggressively rolled out a BYOD program aimed solely at mobile phones. The plan called for 6,000 employees to transition their existing phones from company-liability to personal-liability. They did this by taking ownership of the phone itself and calling the wireless carrier to change over liability.

Another option: They could pay out of pocket for any phone that supports BES or ActiveSync.

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, which can lead to loss of personal data. Such arrangements favor the company and can lead to murky legal wrangling.

Employees couldn't opt out of BYOD, either.

Egan chose a BYOD mandate over a BYOD option because it was simpler. Having a mixture of company-owned phones and BYOD phones is a managerial nightmare, he says. With company-owned phones, Egan had to deal with broken phones, wireless contracts and deploying phones to new employees. (Half of VMware's employees have been hired in the last two years.)

On the day Apple released the iPhone 4, for instance, Egan says he received a hundred phone calls from employees telling him that their current company-owned phones needed to be replaced. "Let's just say there was a coincidence on major phones shipping and either damaged or lost equipment," he says, adding, "You can't be hybrid in this."

From an IT standpoint, there is little difference between a company-owned iPhone and a BYOD iPhone, says CTO Aaron Freimark at Tekserve, a services firm helping Fortune 1000 companies adopt the iPad. Employees will use consumer devices in a personal way, no matter who actually owns them.

"You're giving them or possibly loaning them the device, but it becomes their device for that period," Freimark told CIO.com.

Some VMware employees were taken aback by the BYOD mandate. "The response was, how can you do this to me?" Egan recalls. "You had people really happy and really sad. I initially got a bunch of flak from employees because, up to that point, the company kind of paid for everything."

Social Enterprise Network Eases Adoption

Employees with company-owned phones could simply take ownership of the phone itself and then call up the wireless carrier to change over liability. But that's not as easy as it sounds. The employee has to establish an account with the carrier and sign transfer of liability forms. It takes about three phone calls to do this. Carriers, says Egan, don't have the greatest customer service.

The transition to BYOD is labor intensive, agrees Brandon Hampton, a founding director of Mobi Wireless Management, a software and services provider advising Fortune 100 companies on wireless strategies. "We average about 20 to 25 minutes per user to convert from a corporate-liable to an individual-liable line--and we're good at it," he told CIO.com.

VMware turned to an acquisition it made last year, Socialcast, for help. Socialcast offers companies an enterprise social network platform similar to Facebook. Since nearly all VMware employees are already on Socialcast, Egan decided to use the social network to grease the BYOD wheels.

VMware employees use Socialcast to communicate and collaborate with each other: 73 percent of questions posed on Socialcast receive an answer. Of these questions, 57 percent are answered in one hour, 91 percent in 24 hours. The average question receives 4.2 responses.

Employees lit up Socialcast as they worked through the BYOD process, says Tim Young, vice president of social enterprise at VMware. They passed along carrier information, such as when AT&T was running a special or T-Mobile was offering a package with unlimited data.

"The self-help took a huge burden off IT," Young says. "BYOD is one of the biggest use-cases for Socialcast."

The tide turned from complaining to acceptance, adds Egan. "For a broad deployment, it's just invaluable," he says. "Be it Socialcast or some other tool out there on the market, I would recommend [a social network] to my peers to ease the transition."

The Seven-Digit Savings

On the cost side, VMware put a cap on the amount of reimbursement per employee so that wireless bills wouldn't spiral out of control. The amount varied depending on job function: a quota-carrying salesperson was allotted up to $250 per month, while most employees capped out at $70.

"I know what my phone bills were, and we're about 30 percent lower" with BYOD, Egan says.

BYOD cost savings, however, don't come easy. In fact, Aberdeen Group found that a company with 1,000 mobile devices can spend an extra $170,000 per year, on average, when they use a BYOD approach. (For more on this, read BYOD: If You Think You're Saving Money, Think Again.)

The problem lies in hidden costs: BYOD often leads to more expense reports filed every month, and a single expense report costs about $18 to process, Aberdeen says. This pushes up the average cost of a monthly BYOD phone bill to $90.

VMware got around this hidden cost partly due to the company's BYOD demographics, partly to good management practices.

Roughly half the employees in the BYOD program are in sales and already file monthly expense reports. This means the phone bill becomes just another line item. For employees who don't normally file monthly expense reports, they can collect wireless phone bills over a quarter and put them on a single expense report, thus reducing the accounting burden of processing BYOD-only expense reports.

BYOD also didn't lead to new hires or more management overhead. "That's all been baked into our program, and I feel very comfortable saying that I will save seven figures this year," Egan says.

Here Comes the Hard Part

Now VMware plans to include BYOD laptops and tablets in the next quarter. Egan is taking a pilot-phase approach because computers are much more complex than smartphones in a BYOD setting. Computers can store a great deal more corporate and personal data, as well as critical applications.

"There's still a lot of issues sorting through the data, and then the speed of replication when you move that data around and how you segment the data on devices," Egan says.

Similar to using Socialcast, Egan will rely on VMware products for this part of the BYOD rollout. VMware's Horizon Application Manager functions like an enterprise app store, letting employees securely log into different apps based on their roles in the company. Another VMware product, ThinApp for application virtualization, enables desktop apps to run on tablets.

And then there's the data.

VMware has a storage product called Project Octopus, which is similar to the popular cloud storage service Dropbox. VMware reserves the right to look at data stored in Project Octopus and remove this data from the device.

With data, though, BYOD enters the foggy world of personal data and business data, employee privacy rights and corporate risk management. "That's a tough kind of issue to sort out," Egan says.

It'll be one of many challenges facing Egan as BYOD becomes an integral part of the company's computing and workforce culture.

VMware Envisions Virtualization in Post-PC, BYOD Era

Late last year, VMware launched a new bring your own device (BYOD) plan under which every one of its 6,000 U.S. employees was required to use his or her personal mobile phones for work. The mandate was more than a cost-saving measure. VMware appears serious about establishing itself as a leader in post-PC era enterprise computing, and getting intimate with the benefits and challenges of BYOD is essential to that plan.

"We needed to eat our own dog food," says Javier Soltero, CTO of SaaS and Application Services at VMware.

Entering the Post-PC Era

VMware was born on the idea of desktop virtualization, but its server virtualization technologies really put it on the map. It has since added cloud infrastructure management and a cloud applications platform to its portfolio. Now it's taking a much more expansive view of desktop virtualization with a vision it calls End-User Computing that encompasses extending its middleware to all end-user devices in the enterprise, especially smartphones and tablets.

"We're focused on filling in the part beyond desktop virtualization and truly delivering solutions that offer knowledge workers and end-users more broad, secure, manageable ways to leverage mobility," Soltero says.

A Hypervisor for Mobile Phones

One of the ways it plans to do that is VMware Horizon Mobile Virtualization, a project that started as a mobile hypervisor for a particular Android phone, and which may just solve one of the stickier problems of BYOD: how to manage access to sensitive company data stored on personal mobile devices. With Horizon, customers will be able to virtualize a complete mobile phone image that can be remotely managed by IT and provisioned and deprovisioned rapidly. With Horizon Mobile Virtualization, employees could use their personal device to do things like checking Facebook status, and then switch to the business instance to create expense reports or answer business-sensitive emails.

But it's not enough to simply answer the management problem of BYOD, Soltero says. Truly embracing the post-PC era means changing the way we think about delivering and consuming applications. The vision goes far beyond mobility—it's about transforming the way end-users interact with all the tools they use to do their work. VMware has always had the goal of "business transformation through IT transformation," Soltero says.

"We're trying to bring to life a new application platform specifically tailored to next-generation devices," he says. "Mobile is a symptom. It's not the cause. The cause is the shift from a multi-function Website view of the world, where every application was really approached from a feature-rich portal where you access any one of potentially 50 or 100 different functions. You show up at this one door and there's probably 50 or 100 doors behind it. That doesn't work here. It doesn't work for consumer applications and it doesn't work for enterprise applications."

Consumerization of IT Changes Thinking About Enterprise Apps

From content management systems to Intranets and everything in between, Soltero says he believes enterprise applications have become unwieldy and difficult for end-users to use.

"The majority of internal content in an enterprise over the last 10 years has all been expected to be dropped off in this place called the Intranet," Soltero says. "I think that concept is frankly going to get completely up-ended. It's gotten completely unmanageable. It's pretty hard to find stuff in there. The amount of content that gets produced makes it really hard to deliver a timely, fresh experience."

Soltero says end-users are increasingly turning to mobile apps because they're streamlined and focused. For instance, use an airline application online and you're likely to encounter a complicated affair with dozens of options. But on a phone or tablet, the app is often stripped down to focus on three or four things that a user needs access to while on the road, with an interface optimized to make using intuitive. And consumer-focused apps are generally not nearly as onerous to use as enterprise apps, Soltero says.

"The user experience for enterprise applications just sucks," he says. "Even applications I use every day at VMware, I'm glad I only have to use these things for very limited amounts of time."

"The opportunity to use both the interaction metaphors as well as a lot of the layouts and more streamlined UI approach often found in tablet applications to provide access to enterprise content is phenomenal," Soltero says. "I'd rather use something like Flipboard to peruse the different channels that are available to me within the enterprise."

In Soltero's vision, developers building enterprise applications won't worry about the infrastructure that underlies the application. They'll just focus on the code. When various devices access the application, VMware's middleware would deliver the content in a manner native to the devices and their UI capabilities.

Transforming Communication and Collaboration

VMware is also looking at the nuts and bolts of communication within the enterprise and targeting it for transformation.

"Corporate communications has to change," he says. "The way people work today, for the most part, is that we have two tools at our disposal that we use for getting work done: PowerPoint and email. Most communication, at least at a technology company like VMware, is done as part of presentations that are shared over email."

That's not only unwieldy, especially in the case of large files, it's insecure and poses additional problems like version control to boot.

"It's a lowest-common denominator collaboration technology," Soltero says. "The reason we use it is that everybody has it."

VMware is attacking that issue from multiple directions.

  • One direction is Project Octopus, VMware's enterprise-grade answer to consumer-focused Dropbox, which has proliferated as a rogue cloud within enterprises as users seek a way to easily share documents and files between their devices. Project Octopus is intended to give users the capability to securely share files and collaborate regardless of the devices they use, while giving IT the capability set and manage policies for data access and sharing, both across the organization and with external collaborators.
  • Another direction is Socialcast, a microblogging platform VMware acquired last year. Socialcast's technology allows VMware to embed activity streams, including communication, directly into apps like CRMs and ERPs.

"This really enables mobile devices to be a primary vehicle for participating," Soltero says.

Where Is This Road Taking Us?

So given VMware's vision of End-User Computing, what will the enterprise look like five years from now?

"Windows will still be around," Soltero says. "But the way in which you access Windows applications and anything related to your traditional desktop computing will be completely different. You won't be accessing your desktop and its mouse and the whole business through a tablet. You might just have the relevant user interface components of the device you'll be using transmitted directly to the device."

"We'll build a better bridge," he adds. "Five years from now, you will hopefully have closer parallels to the consumer experiences for things like file sharing and communication in the enterprise. You'll see that significantly closer to the things that have been successful in the consumer world."

"And you'll see a different relationship between users and IT," he says. "Today, in the potentially contentious process of consumerizing IT or delivering on this post-PC era, often IT—for perfectly understandable reasons—is kind of the gatekeeper and denier of things rather than the enabler of things. My hope is that we'll see less of this shadow IT. Instead, IT will have developed the processes and partnered with the right technology companies to enable this different interaction with its users. To me, that's a foregone conclusion. It has to happen."

Syndicate content