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25 July 2014 | 0

The story from an IDC report that says Europe is faltering behind the US in ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) implementation is interesting and highlights that there can be many and varied interpretations of fairly fundamental concepts.

The story reports on IDC findings that between 2013 and 2014, European companies, while increasing in the number with BYOD plans in place (26 and 36% respectively) the number planning them had fallen, from 31% to 23%, while the number with no plans at all remained relatively high at 41%, compared with 44% previously.

This does not paint a picture of rampant, rabid uptake.

The piece goes on to suggest that European expectations are that an employer provides the tools to do the job, even if those tools are to have some element of personal use. It goes on to say that this is preferred as many Euro-techies seem to balk at the idea of company control of even a portion of private devices.

This contrasts drastically with the prevailing US attitude, it appears, where the freedom to determine one’s own device is paramount.

But looking around, there is much to support this attitude from other aspects of European business culture.

The French court ruling from earlier this year, which actually just builds upon an existing 1999 implementation, says that employees must have “the opportunity to disconnect from remote communication tools at their disposal”, meaning that it is now illegal for managers to contact employees regarding work related matters outside of normal business hours. This would be anathema to most US workers, from whence the Blackberry was dubbed the ‘Crackberry’ and described as the ‘golden ball and chain’.

Even anecdotally, a colleague here laughed initially and then sighed enviously when he received an out of office notification from a Swiss colleague indicating his absence on 4 weeks annual leave!

In these cases there are very different expressions of what it means to be free.

The US side of things there seems to be the willing acceptance that the company owns your time, though you may be free to choose the tools that best allow you to deliver on expectations. The Euro attitude seems to be leave me alone when it is my time and if you want me to work with certain tools, provide them, with France going so far as to codify these sentiments.

Now in the US, it may be a competitive attitude among employees, as much as company culture or expectations, that drives the 24 hour availability policy, but the result remains the same.

So what does this mean for IDC’s findings? Well it may not be that Europe is faltering on BYOD implementation, it may be, as is pointed out, that European CIOs are seeing that BYOD is not as much of an enabler as was first thought. It does not question the validity of mobile access to data and resources, or even the smart connected devices (SCD) themselves, but rather the attitudes that so facilitated BYO in the US do not prevail here to the same extent.

This may also be reflected in the fact that for a while, the work devices being offered were often far less attractive than those at the disposal of the average knowledge worker. This is now not the case. As OEMs have got their collective finger out, the range and diversity of devices is now truly inspiring. But also, Apple and Google have also extracted a digit and taken notice of the fact that their platforms are increasingly being issued in enterprise and so need management features that allow them to be used so safely. And let’s not overlook Microsoft, here either. Windows Phones are generally very business friendly, and I don’t care what anyone says about ownership experiences and fanbois cool — I want a Surface Pro 3.

There I’ve said it.

But what cannot be ignored is that it has taken a while for the BYO trend to really settle here and for organisations to see the value for themselves. But now that it has, it would appear that mobility and SCDs are being implemented in our own unique way this side of the pond, and we seem less concerned about the “your own” bit, and more about the device bit.



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