In The Palms of Our Hands
It’s getting hard to remember what it was like before we carried around mini supercomputers in our pockets and briefcases. Nowadays, everyone is connected via mobile and internet—which has introduced great opportunity, but also risk, for business leaders introducing the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) within their company.
The idea behind BYOD: give your employees the opportunity to use their own personal technology for work purposes. The thought behind the movement: your people are already familiar with their own devices and they already have them on hand at all times. Ideally and in theory, your team members will be more productive and happier with BYOD in place.
Yet, like any new development, the risks need to be evaluated. BYOD has been around since about 2009, but it’s still a bit like the Wild West. To date, no universal set of guidelines and limitations for employers and employees exists. This raises a number of concerns business owners need to factor into the equation.
BYOD: The Benefits
Who doesn’t like saving money, driving productivity, and increasing employee satisfaction? These are all major benefits and great incentives to implement a BYOD policy.
Purchasing technology for every employee is a major financial commitment. Allowing employees to use their own devices can help to ease that financial burden, as most companies do not have a budget that can keep pace with the rate at which mobile technology advances.
This brings us to the next benefit; it’s likely difficult for a company to account for each employee’s personal preferences and background knowledge of their devices. When your employees gain the ability to use their own technology, they’re more familiar with how to use it—reducing training time and curbing the risk of user error—so your employees will be happier and less stressed.
Higher job satisfaction results in increased productivity. BYOD also encourages more interactive and collaborative work environments. There are an abundance of cloud-based productivity and collaboration mobile applications geared toward improving productivity, and a BYOD environment can ease the cost of these for an organization.
BYOD: The Challenges
BYOD is a good thing—but it does come with a set of challenges and concerns. The most pressing concerns with BYOD policies are those of network and security stability. Keeping your company’s private and sensitive data secure is one of your IT department’s biggest roles, and BYOD adds a new dimension to this ongoing struggle.
Every employee has personal technology that travels with them all the time. These devices have access to their employer’s network and secure data—all the time. This means that a lost or stolen device is a potential threat. It also means that any malicious program hiding on a personal device now also has access to your company’s network and data. All it takes is one infected device to compromise the integrity of your network and data security. Another common issue: how to retrieve your company’s data from the device of an employee who has been let go.
For as convenient as cloud services and other collaborative applications can be, you cannot overlook how distracting a personal device can be to an employee. Most people use their personal technology for entertainment as much as anything else.
There can also be hidden costs for your company when hosting a BYOD environment. Over time, the cost of providing enough bandwidth for every device connected to your network can add up. It also can put a lot of extra work on your IT department’s plate when they become responsible for servicing and maintaining all those employee devices.
There’s no rulebook yet on how to handle these scenarios. How can a business allow an employee to use their personal phone or laptop for work, and then limit them on how they can use it in their off time? Especially when they bought it themselves? This is where BYOD gets particularly tricky.
The Solution: A Clear and Comprehensive BYOD Policy
Finding balance is the key. A clear and comprehensive BYOD policy needs to be developed, and it must work for both your company and your employees. Choosing or creating the right BYOD platform is essential to your company’s success. Your BYOD policy should include set and enforced components, including: password enforcement, automatic update requirements, mobile device management services (MDM), and employee accountability.
The solution here is to understand the potential threats to your company’s network and data, and to then implement and enforce the right BYOD policies to minimize risk to your company network and sensitive data.
The key to implementing a successful BYOD environment is (as with all IT) a proactive approach. You can begin crafting your own BYOD policy, but it’s best to work with a qualified IT professional before implementing your BYOD plan company-wide.
When handled appropriately, a BYOD environment can save your company money, help make happier employees and increase productivity.