For quite a few years now, there has been a surge of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) use in businesses: employees bring their own mobile devices at work – smartphones, tablets, flash drives, notebooks and laptops – and use them for professional purposes, as well as offsite or at home. This is a growing trend that businesses will not avoid: people now live alongside social media and are connected 24/7. They have fewer boundaries between private and public information, and use their own devices indiscriminately to check personal or private emails, tweet, phone a client, or update a status on Facebook.
Working on the move
There are advantages in this new working behaviour, not to mention a greater availability of employees however this changes the traditional template where IT departments had control over the corporate technology. This is why companies need to step in and set BYOD guidelines to make the most of it whilst controlling access to data, ensuring consistency in communication, and data protection. BYOD needs to be used formally – with the acceptation and support of the company – not casually.
The benefits to the company of allowing staff to use personal devices are quite obvious: the business save on corporate device purchases and training, whilst boosting the employee’s productivity. This means there is better responsiveness, shorter processes, and more customer satisfaction; it is also often more convenient for the employee who can work outside the company premises or set working time.
Security and compliance
At the same time, there are cons to consider, the main one being corporate data security and compliance. Loss or theft of mobile devices is common place, and with the availability of Wi-Fi in public places such as stations, trains, shops, etc. the corporate data is exposed to hackers.
Prohibiting the use of personal devices at work is no longer realistic; it is far more pragmatic and efficient to set up a corporate framework in which to use personal devices so that it can be monitored and supported by the company.
Though the device is owned by the employee, the data is owned by the company – therefore the approach should be collaboration: the corporate guidelines could for instance require employees apply specific security measures:
Other security measures include encrypting data to increase security and installing Mobile Device Management (MDM): this is a system managed by the company’s IT department that enables administrators to set up security configurations, update, to regulate network access, monitor, and provide remote assistance; it can as well block or erase company’s files from a personal device in case of loss or departure.
The BYOD company policy may exclude certain devices that do not support the chosen apps or software. When implementing the new guidelines, HR should be involved as well so that on one hand, employees are perfectly aware of compliance and confidentiality issues and on the other hand, so potential legal issues linked to the monitoring of employees’ property are covered.
Once implemented, a BYOD programme should help reduce overhead expenses for companies: there is less need to purchase and update hardware – this is no longer the company’s responsibility. The main part of the cost is shifted to the user – the employee, who will also deal with upgrades.
However there will be some IT investment to make (MDM and bespoke apps) for the helpdesk as well as staff expenses to cover (though many businesses do not contribute) – and it may be difficult to differentiate on a mobile bill what is personal from what is corporate. The company may want to review the mobile plans to find the best solution for a usage both at home and at work.
The use of BYOD leads to a productivity gain as the line is blurred between home and office, whilst contributing to greater employee satisfaction and retention.