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6 Things to Consider Before You Switch to BYOD

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Rick Delgado looks at BYOD and its various technical and human challenges – and all is not always quite what it seems.

With more and more people in possession of mobile smart devices, it seems logical that many companies are beginning to implement BYOD policies in the office. What is BYOD? Well, it stands for “Bring Your Own Device”, and it basically amounts to having employees supply their own smart devices and possibly other hardware as well. Rather than having the company pay for the smartphones and tablets used by the workforce, a policy is drafted that outlines the rules and regulations for employees to be able to access company data on their own personal equipment.

Why purchase a $500 dollar mobile smart device when the employee already has one in his or her pocket?

Of course, it isn’t quite as simple as all of that. Here are a few things that business leaders should consider before they jump headlong into converting their companies into BYOD workplaces:

1. Cost

The biggest for most companies when they consider a BYOD policy is the resultant cost reduction. After all, why purchase a $500 dollar mobile smart device when the employee already has one in his or her pocket? At the same time, removing company-owned devices from the equation frees up IT departments from having to deal with basic maintenance and repair (which would all be handled by the employee), and focus on wider reaching issues. However, this isn’t to say that BYOD is free. The company may be expected to cover a portion of the monthly bill, as well as pay for increased data use. Still, the increased cost for the employee might make certain workers unhappy.

2. Productivity

For some reason, employees seem to be more productive when they are able to work on their own devices. Part of it has to with being more comfortable and skilled when using one’s own device. Thus, the employee will be able to work faster than would be possible on a less-familiar system. At the same time, by making a personal smart device also a company device, employees will be more likely to have the device with them at all times; not simply while they’re at the office. This means that they’re more likely to do additional work at home, and are easier to contact. Of course, the downside is that as personal and professional lives begin to intersect, there will also be employees who use their devices for non-business activities during work hours. Still, the overall gain amounts to an average of 37 additional minutes of productivity per employee per week, which really adds up fast.

Still, the overall gain amounts to an average of 37 additional minutes of productivity per employee per week, which really adds up fast.

3. Employee morale

This is a tough one. On the one hand, most of the studies that have been released claim that employees who are able to use their own devices are happier at work. However, many of these studies seem to focus rather on allowing employees to use their personal devices, and not on forcing them to. In fact, a recent study by the analysis firm IDC has concluded that the majority of employees would rather have a company device than be expected to do company work on personal equipment. Businesses should get a feel for what their employees really want before switching to BYOD in an attempt to improve morale.

4. Acceptable use

People like to have freedom, especially with their personal devices. Normally this isn’t an issue. However, when a personal device becomes a company device, that freedom can cause serious problems. After all, the company doesn’t technically own the device, so how can they dictate what is appropriate use and what is not? This is an issue that needs to be considered by any business that is considering a BYOD policy.

A recent study by IDC concluded that the majority of employees would rather have a company device than be expected to do company work on personal equipment.

5. Security

This may be the biggest concern among the bunch. When data is contained on a corporate server, or within a protected network, then it is relatively safe from attackers and theft. However, once that information is accessed by a remote mobile device, then the safety controls that the business had over that data is lost. With a legion of various possible devices in a BYOD environment, it’s just not possible to integrate a single, overarching security policy that doesn’t also violate an employee’s personal rights. And when an employee leaves, how can your company be sure that the device that he or she takes along isn’t full of sensitive corporate data?

6. Availability

Although the trend is certainly leaning in this direction, the truth is that not every employee in the workforce has access to a personal smart device. By expecting workers to supply their own devices, an organization may leave many at a disadvantage, and could even open themselves up to allegations of employee discrimination.

Business leaders would be smart to review these topics when considering switching to BYOD. Obviously there are great advantages, there are, however, some things that may not be the best fit for your particular company, just yet.