NRL bets on cost savings with BYOD strategy

Rugby league phasing out BlackBerry, unimpressed by BB10

The NRL expects to win “massive cost savings” from a new bring your own device (BYOD) strategy, according to the rugby league’s IT manager, Maurice Veliz.

The NRL announced it will use AirWatch mobile device management (MDM) software to manage NRL’s existing deployment of corporate-owned devices and a BYOD program begun two to three weeks ago, it said. The hybrid BYOD program follows a decision by the NRL to phase out BlackBerry devices.

A major area for cost cutting with BYOD is an expected reduction in device repair costs, Veliz told Computerworld Australia. When a corporate-owned device is broken, the business buys the employee a new one, but under BYOD the employee must pay, he said.

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The NRL is currently registering employee devices to the AirWatch MDM, Veliz said. When that is finished, “we’ll start pushing some of the applications that are being developed by our game development team that will help all our offices on the field,” he said.

The NRL had registered 400 corporate-owned smartphones and tablets to the MDM at the end of February. The BYOD program will cover the business’s entire staff of 800.

While starting with a hybrid strategy, the NRL could move to pure BYOD in the future. When management sees the cost savings from the BYOD program, Veliz said there may be a “bigger push to enforce more of a BYOD [strategy]” and to phase out the corporate-owned devices.

The NRL’s existing corporate-owned devices are mainly Apple iPhones and iPads, said Veliz. He estimated the company owns about 10 Google Android smartphones. The NRL has been phasing out BlackBerry devices for the past three months and only has “a dozen” left, he said.

The NRL phased out BlackBerry after “finding it hard to source the models that the users were after,” namely the BlackBerry Bold 9900, Veliz said. “We also found it so much easier to work with the iPhones.”

Users did not want the new BlackBerry 10 models, which launched in Australia earlier this week, Veliz said. “The users just weren’t liking them.”

Veliz expects employees who already have corporate devices will keep those devices for now because they are completely paid for by the business, he said.

Under BYOD, the NRL will probably provide employees with a budget to spend on mobile devices and other technology, Veliz said. “If we can get the right infrastructure ... we can head down that road.”

While NRL had supplied devices to only about half its staff, the BYOD program will be open to everyone, Veliz said. “That makes it a little bit hard because we don’t know what the licensing will be yet,” he said.

The NRL did not have a bulk-buying discount that it will lose by moving to BYOD, he said. Under its sponsorship agreement with Telstra, the NRL receives a certain amount of money to buy mobile devices.

Veliz said he did not feel as if he was giving up control or security by moving to BYOD. “It makes more sense for people to own the device,” he said.

“The biggest problem is when people leave and take the device with them,” he said. “Normally, we’ve had to wipe [the devices] completely, which they’re not happy about.”

With the MDM, “we can control what we delete out of the devices,” he said.

Besides AirWatch, Veliz said he considered rival MDM software from Symantec and MobileIron. But MobileIron cost more than AirWatch and the Symantec product had just launched and not well established in the market, he said.

The AirWatch MDM has greatly reduced the amount of time IT staff spends managing devices, Veliz said. “We were spending an average of four hours a day” configuring devices”, he said.

“With AirWatch, we just now attach a document with a phone when we send it off, and we no longer get involved with it.”

Veliz said the transition to the AirWatch MDM has been invisible to staff. “They don’t even realise it.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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Tags Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)consumerisation of ITfootballiPhoneAndroidNRLtabletsrugbymobileiPadBlackberryNational Rugby League (NRL)smartphones

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