Cisco Reduces Support Costs with BYOD

For Cisco, supporting 66,000 BYOD employees turns into a cost savings exercise thanks to social support.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted May 23, 2013
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The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement isn't just about user convenience. It's also about enabling enterprises to save money.

Brett Belding, senior manager of IT mobility services at Cisco, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet that Cisco mandated the use of BYOD in 2009. Cisco encourages employees to use devices for both personal and corporate use.

"We have a very pragmatic policy for usage, which is, so long as you don't exceed the average inside of the company, feel free to check Facebook, do corporate email, or jump on a WebEx meeting," Belding said. "If you come back with a massive bill, then your manager is going to dig into you about why you have a bill that is so big."

That said, Belding noted that there are some people at Cisco that want to keep a very strict work/life separation. Those employees can carry multiple devices, with one for personal use and the other for corporate.

Cost savings of BYOD

There are a number of reasons why Cisco mandated BYOD back in 2009. One of the biggest reasons was because the company was simply unable to scale up to enable employee choice.

"Employee choice is not just about anything but Blackberry," Belding said. "It's about the device you want, the size, the color, the carrier - you name it, we wanted to be able to enable choice."

Cisco immediately recognized a hardware cost saving as the company stopped buying devices for employees.

Cost savings were realized from support as well. While intuitively it makes sense that as the number of supported devices goes up, so too would support costs, the opposite is true in Cisco's case.

"Up until the point we went entirely BYOD, employees would just pick the phone up and call the Cisco help desk if something was broken and it would get fixed," Belding said. "We realized that if were going to scale device choice as wide as the industry, we had to figure out a way to scale support in the same manner."

So instead of having Cisco Help Desk for everyone, the company started on what was initially labelled as a self-support service. The service was renamed to Social Support as Cisco IT realized how BYOD support was actually being enabled.

"People didn't just want or need screenshot and uni-directional communications," Belding said. "You need to have collaboration among employees."

Cisco found that while some employees were okay with just the screenshot and explanations, others were willing to jump in and help their co-workers. Some even contributed their own ideas on how to get up and running, which improved on Cisco IT's directions.

"By moving away from the default behavior of picking up the phone for support to the default behavior of going to our Social Support community, we were able to drastically reduce our support costs," Belding said.

That cost saving can now be redirected by Cisco to invest further in its own mobile stack and expanding its network.

"In the last two years, inside of Cisco, we have doubled the number of devices we support," Belding said. "We're now up to 66,000 BYOD mobile devices and we have lowered our support costs by 25 percent over the same period."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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