BYOD's Effect on the IT Help Desk Burden
IndustryView | 2014

Estimates for IT departments’ average cost per ticket (ACT) vary widely. Initial contact alone—whether through an electronic ticketing system, an email or a call to a first-tier agent—can cost from $1 to $22. Once that ticket requires hands-on service, the cost jumps to an average of $62. And remember, these are just estimates. Depending on the industry and the efficiency of the IT department, real-world ACT can vary by orders of magnitude: from 50 cents to over $500.

Of course, minimizing the number of help desk tickets saves money, no matter what the ACT. Many companies minimize tickets and lower costs with better help desk software. Another effective strategy is to increase the availability of self-help resources, such as FAQs and knowledge bases.

And now, as a fringe benefit of a separate trend in the corporate IT world, a new cost-lowering strategy is emerging. BYOD—an increasingly common policy under which companies allow employees to “Bring Your Own Device” to work—has the potential to lower IT help desk expenses by minimizing the creation of new tickets.

Here, we examine this fringe benefit of BYOD. With data from our most recent survey, we look at how, why and to what degree BYOD can be leveraged to reduce demand for support and lower IT help desk costs.

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Employees Prefer Flexibility, Familiarity of Own Devices

Workers have many reasons for wanting to use their own device at work. A 2013 study by Cisco revealed the most common reasons to be:

  1. Better productivity. They feel they get more work done when using their personal device.
  2. More flexibility. They can combine their work and personal lives, and access work content from anywhere.
  3. More utility. They require some function that’s better provided by their personal device.
  4. More familiarity. They prefer the interface or operating system of their personal device.

From an overall business point of view, these are all compelling reasons to consider allowing BYOD. For the purposes of this report, our interest is mainly in the fourth reason: familiarity with the device. Familiarity underlies the various explanations for how and why BYOD programs can reduce help-desk costs.

Employees More Skilled Using Their Own Devices

The most obvious explanation for how BYOD could reduce demand for help desk services is that employees are likely more skilled at using their own devices than company-issued hardware. This means they would run into fewer technical problems and would require assistance less often under BYOD.

So, for our first question, we asked respondents how they’d rate their skill level using their own devices (e.g., phones, tablets and laptops) compared to the devices issued by their employer.

Employee Skill Level With Own Device Compared to Company Device

People generally spend some amount of their spare time using their personal electronic devices: checking email and social media, playing games and browsing the Internet. Though these aren’t work-related activities, they do help people build familiarity with their device and its operating system. This familiarity translates to more skill—and, as we’ll see below, this skill can be transferred to the workplace.

Technical Problems Much Less Common With Own Devices

It seems plausible that if people are more skilled using a device, they’ll run into technical problems with it less often. And when they do run into technical problems, their higher skill level will enable them to solve more problems without outside help. Our next survey question tested exactly this. We asked how often respondents run into problems that they cannot fix themselves with their own devices, compared to when using company-issued devices.

Frequency of Technical Problems With Own Device vs. Company Device

Here again we see the fruits of increased familiarity. When people are using their own devices, with which they are more skilled, they run into problems—and require outside assistance—less often.

Employees Less Likely to Seek Help With Personal Devices

Next we looked at the real-world experiences of employees who use their own devices at work. We were curious how often, if at all, they had opened tickets with their help desk department for technical assistance with work-issued versus with personal devices.

Employees Who Have Opened Help Desk Tickets by Device Type

These results are in line with what the previous results logically suggest: Employees are more skilled with their own devices—and thus, run into problems they can’t solve on their own less often. With fewer problems they can’t solve themselves, they open fewer support tickets for help when using their own devices.

Problem-Resolution Methods Vary by Device Type

Finally, we wanted to compare how employees solve technical problems they encounter while working, given three possible methods, for work-issued and personal devices. Our hypothesis was that employees would not only be more likely to troubleshoot problems with their own devices on their own, but that some would even wait until after work to troubleshoot.

How Employees Solve Problems by Device Type

Indeed, that was exactly the case. Eighteen percent of respondents would wait until after work to try fixing a problem on their personal device. Given that contacting IT staff was the go-to method for over 40 percent of employees when using a company-issued device, BYOD would translate to a direct reduction in new tickets for the help desk departments of those in our sample.

Cost Savings Likely, But Difficult to Quantify

This survey shows that BYOD programs have the potential to reduce help desk service costs. When using their own devices, employees are:

  1. More skilled at using the device.
  2. Less likely to encounter technical problems requiring outside help.
  3. More likely to fix technical problems themselves, even on their own time.

We can use the data from this survey to calculate hypothetical real-world savings. If we suppose an ACT of $50 for a help desk department that gets, on average, 1,000 tickets a month, this help desk department has a monthly expenditure of $50,000.

Factoring in data from the fourth chart above—that 18 percent would open a ticket for a problem with their own device, and 42 percent would do the same when using a company device—we could infer that allowing BYOD could reduce new tickets by 24 percent (the difference between 42 and 18). This would result in a $12,000 savings for the help desk department each month.

Remember, though, this calculation is only hypothetical; it is not fully supported by existing data. For example, it assumes that employees are using their own devices and work-issued devices for the same collection of tasks. It’s possible that employees use their own devices for certain tasks requiring less technical skill, such as checking email, while using work-issued devices for other, more technically challenging tasks, such as network printing.

Conclusions

Help desk and IT service departments have many cost-reduction tools at their disposal. The right software can go a long way towards increasing overall efficiency, minimizing new and open tickets and reducing employee downtime.

But as BYOD programs become more and more common, they should be assessed by IT departments with consideration for the cost-savings they can bring. Though only one part of a complex equation, BYOD programs can instantly raise the skill level of employees, minimize the technical problems they encounter and reduce the creation of new help desk tickets. Companies considering BYOD programs can find suggestions for successfully implementing a comprehensive mobile device strategy here.

Methodology

To find the data in this report, we conducted an online survey of seven questions, and gathered 2,327 responses from randomly selected adults within the U.S. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.

To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at craig@softwareadvice.com.


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