Analysing the impact of BYOD entering the Oxford Dictionaries Online

Oxford Dictionaries Online has announced its latest revision, and the clutch of new words that accompanies it. It’s a source of stories as important to the journalist as anniversaries – although Google Doodle has of course recently taken the shine off that one.

In a blog post, the dictionary outlined the 44 new words and senses to enter the online version as part of its September update; the dictionary updates quarterly.

Whilst the consumer press grapples with the vacuous concepts of ‘selfies’, ‘twerking’ and ‘food baby’ (if you don’t know what they mean, you’re probably better off), Enterprise AppsTech is far more interested in the inclusion of BYOD.

Here’s the definition, for posterity:

“BYOD n. [mass noun] the practice of allowing the employees of an organisation to use their own computers, smartphones, or other devices for work purposes”

Nothing wrong with that, although the definition does miss the use of BYOD as a verb, such as “Does your company BYOD?”

Of course, technology inevitably plays a large part in these lists, with the inclusion of ‘Bitcoin’, ‘phablet’ and ‘Internet of Things’ heartening. The June 2013 update, for instance, included ‘big data’, ‘crowdsourcing’, and ‘tweet’ in its newer sense.

This brings about an interesting contention. With BYOD now officially in the dictionary, what does it mean for its status in the enterprise?

Catching on

John Simpson, the outgoing chief editor of the OED, made a salient point back in June when the inclusion of ‘tweet’ as a noun and verb “[to make] a posting on the social media website Twitter” was announced.

In his commentary, he noted that ‘tweet’ “breaks at least one OED rule, namely that a new word needs to be current for ten years before consideration for inclusion. But it seems to be catching on.”

The technology landscape today moves at a staggering rate – as one mobility exec told me, one year in mobile is like seven years anywhere else.

So here’s the rub. With BYOD now officially in the online dictionary – remember, once a word gets in, it never gets deleted – does this mean it’s fully accepted in the mainstream, or does it mean its time has passed?

The word inclusion process would indicate the former. The guidelines have always remained; so long as a word enters the Oxford English Corpus, and is used many times in a variety of sources – and by multiple authors – it’s a candidate for inclusion into the dictionary.

Yet Oxford admits the game has changed, noting: “New terms can achieve enormous currency with a wide audience in a much shorter space of time, and people expect to find these new ‘high-profile’ words in their dictionaries.

“This presents an additional challenge to lexicographers trying to assess whether a term is ephemeral or whether it will become a permanent feature of the language.”

The advocates of the COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled) movement, however, would think the latter. Indeed, Philippe Winthrop, of the Enterprise Mobility Forum, tweeted that very thought yesterday.

This definition also assumes that BYOD assimilates all other BYO terms. BYO PC, of course, has been around for a lot longer than BYOD, but then again, the latter term has captured public interest far more, and so gets in.

It’s a similar issue with cloud. The concept of cloud computing has been around for decades, yet now it’s got a tangible word tied to it, used by multiple sources, it’s also in (although the definition notes the addition of a determiner to ‘normally’ form ‘the cloud’ – it’ll be interesting to see if and when that changes).

Recent surveys around BYOD have certainly shown maturation with the concept in the enterprise.

Earlier this month Gartner named BYOD alongside cloud as one of eight disruptive IT cost forces, with the analysts noting that BYOD gives “new security and environmental risks”, which lead to increased costs. Elsewhere Analysys Mason released results of a survey which showed most BYOD activity was around voice and SMS, not email as the majority of reports state.

Yet the prevailing wind suggests more momentum with bring your own app (BYOA), with mobile app management (MAM) outgunning standalone mobile device management (MDM).

As many at the heart of the enterprise will testify, today it’s all about the data, not the device. MAM, MCM (mobile content management), or pooling it all together into enterprise mobility management (EMM) – these are the concepts which are gaining ground today.

Granted, it’s hard to argue against the likes of Bitcoin and Internet of Things not being current terms. But whilst BYOD being immortalised in the online dictionary is a step forward, one shouldn’t rely on the dictionary to keep up with tech trends.

What do you think?

Update September 4: A previous version of this article stated that BYOD was added into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED); it was added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online, which is a different publication. Enterprise AppsTech is happy to correct the record.

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