Trick or Treat: Both Sides of the BYOD Story

Posted by Jess McWeeney on Oct 31, 2014 9:21:15 AM
Jess McWeeney

BYOB - Trick or treat?
Once upon a time... managing electronics in the workplace was simple. There was a typewriter and a phone on each desk and when people left the office, work was done for the day.

It's hard to imagine a scenario more different from that than where we are today—employees have wearable devices, tablets, smart phones, and laptops, all of which often play a different role in their day-to-day work.

This reality has led to the demise of company-owned devices. Employees are rarely "issued a blackberry" when they start these days—which means many companies are having to at least consider Bring Your Own Device policies.

BYOD From An Employee's Point of View

Treat: From an employee perspective, BYOD means they get their choice of phone and they have a lot more freedom around which apps they use and how they customize their device.

Since they're already familiar with their own phone, BYOD eliminates any learning curve that would come with a company-supplied device.

It often also means they get to use newer, more updated devices, since companies often buy company devices and then use them until they fail rather than upgrading each time a new device hits the market.

Trick: But BYOD is often used by companies as a way to reduce costs—not just the cost of buying the phone, but also the costs of paying a monthly bill and choosing which apps to install. That means employees are now footing that bill.

And if the employee has access to any kind of sensitive customer information, their company may want to limit access to specific applications and/or want to install security-specific features to ensure that data remains safe.

BYOD From A Company Perspective

BYOD White Board Company Policy Bring Your Own DeviceFrom a company's point of view,  BYOD offers both significant advantages and some potential risks.

Treat: PC Magazine reports that BYOD offers companies new mobile workforce opportunities, increased employee satisfaction, and the ability to reduce or avoid costs—and it's that last benefit that is the one most commonly cited when discussing advantages of BYOD policies.

For example, when VMware switched from corporate-supplied devices to BYOD for its 6,000 employees Computer World reported that it saw savings in the 7 figures.

Trick: The con that comes first to most business owners' minds is the time and effort it takes to ensure that company information is accessible from a variety of devices—in a consistent way (after all, not all apps are currently available for all platforms the way we are).

Supplying devices eliminates this issue by limiting the number and type of device(s) employees can use to access work-related materials.

Other than the issue of IT support, it's important to think about potential security risks that can come with a BYOD policy.

When employees are allowed to use their personal devices to access company data, whether it's training information, customer contact info, or even just email, it opens up the possibility of employees accessing or converting company intellectual property for their own use.

And even with exemplary and trust-worthy employees, there's always the risk that a device might be lost or stolen, and data might be used illegally.

Are BYOD A Trick or A Treat? It Might Not Matter...

Gartner Inc. research has led to predictions four in 10 organizations will rely exclusively on BYOD by 2016 (no longer providing any devices to employees), and 85 percent of businesses will have some kind of BYOD program in place by 2020.

With acceptance and adoption that widespread, employees will simply expect to bring their own mobile devices into the office and to be able to access company data from those mobile devices—including wearable tech.

Where does your company fall on the BYOD debate? Let us know in the comments.

Topics: Mobile Technology