A BYOD program allows employees of enterprises to bring their own mobile devices to the workplace or use them to work remotely by being able to access company systems, networks, and information with such devices. Ideally, a BYOD climate offers benefits to both enterprises and employees such as reduced costs, increased productivity, flexibility of work schedules, enhanced mobility, and employee empowerment.
BYOD’s twists and turns
Where are the savings? Sure, IT coffers may have been spared from the financial demands of mobile device purchases because employees are picking the tab. However, a half-baked BYOD policy is marred with underlying costs that are often not immediately noticed. Many of these costs are embedded in infrastructure upgrades, mobile device management (MDM), support services, compliance and legal services, and security. Moreover, it is never easy to delineate personal use from official use.
Are employees happier? For a time, early BYOD advocates enjoyed a sense of life-work balance working and attending to personal matters with a single phone. While employee satisfaction increased, enterprises were looking for ways to secure corporate data by implementing policies to monitor and review data and activities on employees’ mobile devices. How to preserve employees’ right to privacy is now a contentious issue that is widening the gap between employers and the workforce.
Is productivity increased? Most people carry their devices with them and this makes employees more accessible even when they are not in the workplace. This also presupposes faster workflow processes, more improved efficiencies, and increased productivity. However, imposing work and measuring performance outside working hours are sensitive HR concerns that must be covered by a purposeful BYOD policy and agreed to by all stakeholders.
Is there hope for BYOD?
Many early BYOD deployments may not have been as successful as planned, but all is not lost. By now, denying the ubiquity of mobile devices and the increasing demand from all types of users is not an option for CIOs. What they can do is go back to their BYOD program, know what went wrong, and create an entirely new and comprehensive mobile strategy that will address their past issues.
Do a complete make-over. Reorganize the team, re-outline corporate goals, and redefine BYOD policy details. In a scramble to join the bandwagon, the first take may have been done in a hurry.
Tighten security. Of course, the first program may have had its own security safeguards, but this time around, the seriousness of a security policy must be stressed to all participants. Mobile users should clearly understand and agree to penalties for failing to adhere to required policies. Delineating corporate and personal data is also important so that both corporate data security and employee privacy are maintained.
Determine who spends for what. There are different approaches to acquiring the mobile devices. The financial model chosen will depend on the company’s requirements and what is agreeable to all concerned. A clear differentiation of official use and personal use should likewise be determined so that costs for acquisition, maintenance, and repair are properly distributed.
Most importantly, strengthen the weakest link – the user. A well-thought out balance between access to IT resources and employee satisfaction is critical. This would require the binding agreements of BYOD participants to what they can benefit from and what they can be liable for.
2013 was an eventful year for the BYOD trend, with convenience covering up for corporate data security risks, employee privacy issues, and veiled costs. So, is BYOD a failure? It is too early to say but there are appropriate remedies that may yet breathe new life to it.