The Risks and Benefits of BYOD Policies at Work

In a 2013 report, the tech research firm Gartner predicted that by 2017, half of all employers will require employees to supply their own mobile device for work purposes. This isn’t an unreasonable expectation given that – in the same report — 38 percent of CIOs said that their company would stop providing devices to workers by this year. In other words, they’ll be relying on bring your own device (BYOD) policies for mobile business communication.

David Willis, VP at Gartner praises BYOD strategies as:

“ . . . The most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in business in decades. The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.”

But does BYOD really live up to the hype? Surely the benefits of BYOD are very real, but there are also risks associated with implementing BYOD policies at work. If you’re thinking of going the BYOD route at your office, it’s important to be well informed on the pros and cons of BYOD.

But even if you don’t have any BYOD aspirations, beware: an Ovum study revealed that almost 70% of employees who own a smartphone or tablet are using it to access corporate data – with or without permission.

BYOD Benefits

1.      An affordable and scalable solution

BYOD policies give smaller companies with limited IT resources the ability to go fully mobile without a sizeable investment in devices and services. By leveraging your employees’ existing devices, you can quickly implement a mobile strategy that will grow with your business.

2.      Improved employee satisfaction

Employees are happier and more comfortable when using their own devices for business communications. People love to personalize their mobile devices with family photos and the like, so using these devices more frequently can have the effect of putting people at ease and reducing office stress levels.

What’s more, employees can work more flexibly when they’re able to access corporate information from their personal devices. In this way, BYOD can open the door to alternate work arrangements, including telecommuting.

And by the way, these benefits aren’t limited to office workers – field technicians will be much happier using their own hardware rather than carrying around multiple devices from site to site.

3. Increased productivity and reduced IT costs

Direct cost savings result from reduced spending on hardware, software licensing, and device maintenance. Instead, these costs are shifted to the user. In fact, BYOD policies can save as much as $80 per month per participating employee.

BYOD policies can result in productivity gains from happier, more comfortable workers: studies have shown that employees often work faster with their own technology, with which they are well acquainted.

BYOD also makes it easier to leverage cloud-focused IT strategies, which further reduce IT costs related to on-premise data storage.

4. Added flexibility

Mobile technology is advancing so quickly. You could invest in state-of-the-art devices for your office, but they’d be essentially obsolete in two or three years. And when employees start using outdated devices, productivity will suffer.

Office workers are consistently using cutting-edge devices for personal use. Why not leverage this technology to improve business processes? If you do, it’ll be fairly easy to adapt to new technologies, because your employees will bring the necessary gadgets.

BYOD Risks

1.      Sunk costs

Some companies choose to offer employees a partial reimbursement for the costs of purchasing and using a mobile device for work. That said, a Good Technology study revealed that half of all companies using BYOD make their employees cover all of the costs – and they’re happy to do so!

But for companies that do choose to cover device costs, there is a risk of running into sunk costs. For example, let’s say your company just set up an employee with a new smartphone and service plan. Now let’s imagine that they end up quitting a few months later, leaving you to deal with an administrative mess. A great way to avoid this situation is to only cover the costs (either all or part) of the service plan and not the phone itself. That way when an employee leaves, they can keep the device and work out their own service plan.

You’ll need to have a plan in place for recovering data from personal devices when an employee leaves your company AND keeps the device. Some BYOD service providers will have built-in processes for this.

2. Security

For many CIOs, security will be the top BYOD concern. Data leakage – during the transfer of information from devices to the cloud – is a real possibility. However, smartphone providers and IT departments are advancing their mobile security capabilities, so this is less of a concern than it used to be.

You can mitigate security risks by ensuring that employees understand and are invested in safe usage guidelines when using a device with work-related data for personal use.

Security is a particular concern for smaller companies, who may not have adequate IT resources or capabilities in place. For these companies a mobile device management (MDM) or mobile application management (MAM) solution – even if it’s just a freemium trial version – is an ideal way to protect your data and reduce the risks of hacking and viruses. Working through a virtual private network (VPN) is another way to protect company data.

The real risk is when employees are accessing data without using approved processes and company-sanctioned security tools.

3. Higher IT costs

I know what you’re thinking: didn’t I say that BYOD policies reduce costs? Yes, it’s true. I did. But without the right policies in place you run the risk of actually increasing your IT costs after switching to a BYOD approach.

For instance, without a robust BYOD policy in place, you could face ballooning expenses in an effort to manage the diverse range of employee devices with different operating systems and hardware capabilities.

Similarly, BYOD can be a productivity killer. It’s possible that knowledge workers armed with new BYOD capabilities might be inclined to take more international business trips or vacations. And if they’re paying for their own service plan, they might not be willing  – and are under no obligation – to pay roaming fees to stay in contact with the office.

This could eliminate the ‘free’ work that employees with corporate phones do while traveling. But there is an easy solution: partly or fully subsidizing international data packages for frequent travellers could easily mitigate this risk.

Before you make the jump to BYOD at your office, make sure that the pros outweigh the cons. Or, at the very least, have a good plan in place for addressing any security or other risks. (link to security blog post)

BYOD with BullsEye

BullsEye UC is our office phone solution that lets users take calls, check voicemail, send instant messages, and manage call features through a VoIP connection from ANY device. Visit our website or download the BullsEye UC Overview to learn how we can support your company’s BYOD policies and mobilize your office.

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