October 2012

BYOD Is Here

BYOD Is Here, Whether you Like It or Not

By: Marie-Claude Veillette

The concept of bring-your-own-device – or BYOD – has been a growing trend over the last few years. Sparked by the emergence of the iPhone in 2007 and the release of the iPad tablet in 2010, this IT trend, defined by employees’ desire to bring their own consumer-oriented technology devices to work, is expected to increase in the months ahead.

Since the tendency seems irreversible, more and more companies are wondering if they should allow employees to use their own consumer devices to access corporate emails and other sensitive information from anywhere. This new reality raises huge concerns and brings unexpected challenges among IT departments in charge of enforcing data security, but it also promises benefits for employees and companies alike.

The key IT challenge in the BYOD trend is striking the right balance between what IT wants and employees’ expectations.

Can BYOD Lead to an Increase in Employee Productivity?
Some companies with BOYD BYOD policies are seeing certain upsides, while others are realizing that the challenge represents more than they may have initially anticipated.

Those businesses in favor of allowing employees to use their own PCs and mobile devices for work argue that BYOD contributes to greater employee satisfaction, and happy employees are also productive ones. This argument makes a lot of sense if you consider that with BYOD, employees can work in a way that optimizes their productivity, blending their personal life with work in a single device of their choice. By embracing the consumerization of Information Technology, companies are not only addressing the personal preferences of their employees, but they are also offering them increased mobility and flexibility through the ability to do work in a wider variety of locations.

But the freedom associated with allowing employees to choose their devices comes at a price in terms of potential technical issues as well as employees’ time management. On top of dealing with employees who feel entitled to download and visit whatever APPs and websites they choose, companies should expect to be dealing with some who will ask for a certain freedom when using a gadget paid for out of their own pocket.

BYOD Savings: True or False?
This growing phenomenon is being viewed by some companies as a way to save money, however, this is a point probably best approached with caution. Although BYOD programs generally shift hardware costs towards the users, this kind of initiative may prove to be a Pandora’s Box of potential problems, management headaches and hidden costs such as security software and services.

Moving forward with BYOD may get companies out of the hardware procurement business, but support costs, although potentially nominal, still remain. IT Departments will always have to provide some level of support for updates, troubleshooting or device malfunctions. In addition, companies who choose to deploy remote-access infrastructure to securely deliver data will have to consider buying servers and network upgrades and may need to hire staff to monitor the “in the cloud” process.
The other option is to work with a third party hosting service and though less expensive, vigilance is key.

Regardless of the approach, securing data has a cost that cannot be ignored. Other hidden costs can include increased wireless expenses with the loss of bulk plan discounts, resources required for handling tech support and the processing of more expense reports, and the cost of internal APP development on different platforms. So, at the end of the day, it is probably wiser to think in terms of shifting costs as opposed to pure cost-savings.

Why Go Forward With BOYDBYOD?
For starters, businesses that embrace BYOD practices may get a step ahead of the competition. From a corporate standpoint, BYOD can help attract new college graduates and retain top performers who seek to work on-the-go and often put in time outside of traditional work hours.

From a technical point of view, since BYOD devices are usually kept more up to date than the IT issued devices, companies with BYOD policies can take advantage of newer technology and get the benefits of the most modern features, capabilities and upgrades.

Even though there is always a risk that corporate information could be stolen or leaked, major players in the business IT consider consumerization “somewhat” or “extremely” positive for their companies. This is what emerges from a Cisco report published last spring (May 2012).

But before rolling out a BYOD program, it is imperative that businesses have clear usage policies and procedures to effectively manage risks. They should also lay out minimum security requirements before exposing their data and network resources. Lastly, companies need to update employee contracts with data ownership clauses in case of employee termination or emergency, and procedures in cases where a device is lost or stolen.