Bring your own device (BYOD) is not a new concept. Rumoured to have originated in 2009 at IBM when, instead of fighting the trend of employees bringing their own mobile phones, tablets and storage devices to work, the company chose to embrace it.  

Since then BYOD has taken off in a big way, in both large enterprises and in small businesses.  In 2016, Tech Pro Research reported that 72% of the organisations it surveyed were already allowing the use of personal devices for work, or were planning to introduce the practice within a year.

The trend is perhaps unsurprising considering the consistent growth in the smartphone market.  The Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2016 found that last year smartphone penetration in the UK hit an all-time high of 81%.  The company is predicting a rise to 85% in 2017, as we hit the 10-year anniversary of the first full touchscreen smartphone.  Shipments are expected to grow from 1.48 billion in 2016 and to more than 1.84 billion by 2020, making the smartphone the most successful consumer electronic device ever created.

The BYOD Business

Businesses point to increased employee mobility and productivity, as well as satisfaction and convenience, as the main drivers for BYOD practices.  With smartphone prices ranging from £70 to almost £1000, allowing employees to use their own device that they’ve personally chosen – and purchased – in the workplace also significantly reduces hardware expenditure for businesses.

So why are we still discussing BYOD?  While on its face BYOD seems like a done deal, the inherent lack of control over employee devices presents two distinct challenges for business owners.

The first is managing cost.  If employees are using their own devices to make business calls, but the business is footing the bill, how can the cost be controlled?  Some businesses provide a ‘work phone’ allowance employees can use to offset the cost of their mobile bill.  Others allow employees to expense the cost to the business.  Neither option gives the business control over the tariff, usage or cost of the plan.  It also means the business has no visibility into calls being made on behalf of the company.

The second challenge is managing ownership of a business mobile number.  Employee work phone numbers become associated with their role, and more importantly, the business they are working for.  The contacts they make while working for the business also become associated with their work mobile number.  The issue arises when the employee leaves.  If they are using their own device with their own mobile plan, the business has no ownership over the number.  The employee leaves, and so do the business’ contacts.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Like many business technology conundrums, the solution to BYOD lies in the cloud ” hashtags=”BYOD,Cloud”]

The Cloud Solution to BYOD

The inability to manage cost, number ownership and ultimately control, means many business owners are still struggling to develop effective BYOD policies.  The answer, however, is simple.  Like many business technology conundrums, the solution to BYOD lies in the cloud.

Mobile numbers, like many other aspects of our digital lives, can now be virtualized.  Businesses can store their mobile numbers in the cloud, and easily provide employees with a work phone number.  A cloud mobile number works just like any other mobile number.  In the background, however, the number is not stored on a physical SIM card but is held in a ‘cloud-based mobile network’.  Accessing the phone number works the same as any other cloud-based service – through an internet connected device.  It also has the same flexibility as any other cloud-based service – global access on any connected device, at any time.

It Works Both Ways

By using cloud mobile numbers, businesses can reduce the time and cost involved with traditional SIM-based contracts.  Cloud numbers can allow them to anticipate and prevent issues of increased costs and decreased visibility associated with BYOD, while also enabling a new level of control over a company’s intellectual property (IP).

When a new employee starts, the business can allocate a work phone number the employee can use on their own mobile phone for as long as is required.  The employee has the convenience of using the handset they know, and the satisfaction of retaining their personal number.

The business does not have to pay for a new device or contract.  It is also in control of the number.  When the employee moves on the business can immediately assign the number to their replacement, keeping the contact point with the business rather than the employee.

Size Does Not Matter

The benefits of cloud mobile numbers stretch across any sized business, from large international enterprises to small high street firms.  Corporates, small businesses, freelancers and the self-employed can all benefit from separating business and personal communications on one device, as well as the ease of deployment and cost saving capability that comes with cloud technology.  From a cost and IP control perspective, the larger the organisation, the more savings that can be made.

Businesses with high staff turnovers, for example, recruitment and estate agents, will see the most significant benefits.  Even with just five employees, the cost saving can be significant. For recruitment and estate agents, in particular, business success depends on the contacts made using work mobile phone numbers.  Keeping these numbers in the business when employee leaves can directly impact bottom line results.  With a cloud mobile platform, when the employee leaves, the business can easily reassign their number to their replacement.  With no long contracts, SIM cards, or devices to manage, the contacts remain in the business and staff communication is significantly simplified.

Effective Management Through The Cloud

The centralised management capabilities of cloud platforms are transforming industries across the world.  While the reduced cost, increased control and scalability all provide real business benefits, it is the centralised management capability that can make the most impact in the long term.

With cloud mobile numbers, businesses can access every work mobile number via an online dashboard, adding and managing lines as required, with complete visibility over usage and billing.  Cloud platforms can offer what traditional mobile network operators cannot: instant number transfer, live analytics, call recording and conferencing, smart diverting and CRM integration.

Mobile phones once changed the communications landscape forever.  The cloud will now do that again.