BYOD and How to stay out of the cat-herding business

As I was celebrating Cat Herders Day on Sunday (which coincidentally is eerily similar to any other Sunday), I started thinking about how caring for cats is very analogous to an IT department managing BYOD. Hear me out, because this really isn’t much of a stretch.

Ask any cat owner, and they’ll tell you cats are a special breed. The saying “like herding cats” is so fitting because it’s perfectly impossible to accomplish. Similarly, in previous posts we’ve discussed at length the complexity and concerns regarding managing BYOD and public clouds.

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Everyday new devices are introduced, new apps emerge, new cloud solutions arrive and today’s employees are tech savvy enough to find a way to access them. For most IT departments, simply keeping up is a major challenge and, at the worst of times, it can seem like utter chaos – practically impossible. Sound familiar? IT organizations need to be realistic about the level of control they can expect in the modern digital age of self-service. Lock down or complete control versus enablement and support is just not going to fly as an approach to reigning in BYOD or cloud access.

Here’s another similarity. Cats are notoriously fickle creatures and will go to great lengths to get what they want. Most cat owners have come to terms with the fact that cats rule the household, dictating terms to the owner as opposed to the other way around. Modern consumers and business users have a similar mind set. Google Drive is forbidden? Time to move on to Dropbox. When Dropbox is blocked, they find whatever file sharing solution was recently launched, sometimes before IT has even realized that it exists or had an opportunity to analyze it.

Cats are sneaky. They will hide dark corners and do things behind your back, often after hours or when you are away. While in most cases there is no mal intent, studies have shown that employees frequently ‘sneak’ around company policies, disconnecting from company networks or using personal devices to access blocked sites, apps and tools for business. They see value and increased productivity in having access to these apps and feel hindered by what can seem like arbitrary rules the company put in place to simply forbid everything (e.g. IT’s “Dr. No” reputation) rather than find a way to make it work.

From the feline perspective, if you fulfill a need or serve a purpose, you are alright in their book. If cats are incentivized (read: fed & sheltered), they stick around for the long haul. Similarly, enabling and empowering the employee rather than attempting complete control and you just might find happy, cooperative users and a peaceful, productive and happier IT organization.

It is worth the time and investment to embrace consumerization and BYOD in a safe and effective manner. The Digital evolution is not going away, but with an effective strategy in place the cats may learn to co-exist peacefully.

[Editor’s Note: This post is intended as satire. No cats were harmed during writing. And to anyone offended by being compared to cats, let the record show the author is well aware there are many important traits that separate human behavior from that our furry friends (They can be pretty darn smart though).] 

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Chris Rixon

Chris Rixon

Chris has worked in IT Operations Management technology since 1990, in roles spanning: IT helpdesk, software engineering, consulting, architecture, sales engineering and marketing. Chris joined the Remedy Corporation in 2000 and came to BMC during the acquisition in late 2002.