New developments are always likely to stir up a significant amount of interest and in the business world this is often the case. There are many established ground rules for employees that companies everywhere like to implement but the idea of stepping outside of the standard office environment and norms while completing work tasks is attractive to both staff and management, regardless of sector. There is a growing trend that fits into this way of thinking and it is referred to as ‘Bring Your Own Device’.
What’s the idea?
Many people take devices such as a tablet or smartphone with them to their job and an increasing number of organisations allow their employees to use them for work. The 2013 Multi-Market BYOX Employee Survey by Ovum reported that almost 70 per cent of employees who own such equipment use it to access company data. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the phrase associated with this burgeoning practice and it is very welcome for numerous companies who struggle to keep pace with frequent technology changes. People employ mobile devices devices in almost every aspect of their personal lives and considering the outstanding technological capabilities the tech possesses it makes perfect sense to use them for work purposes too.
The driving force behind the surge in popularity for BYOD is the mutual benefits for employers and staff. If employees are using their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to complete work tasks it negates the need for them to use multiple devices. Employees are using technologies they have been able to acclimatise to in their own time and this will undoubtedly increase the ease and comfort with which they work and in turn, add to productivity levels. BYOD gives the workforce the opportunity to use advanced technology that a lot of businesses may not have the budget to provide. Productivity can be significantly compromised if employees have to use outdated devices and the reduced cost of providing equipment is a huge plus point for any business.
While BYOD looks to be gaining traction in the business world, many have expressed concerns about the burgeoning trend. The drawbacks can work both ways and an example of this is if employees end up spending more of their free time completing work. Conversely, there may be some who get sidetracked by things outside of their work remit, particularly if the usually restricted social networking comes into the equation. A possible solution to this is to implement app that monitors employee’s workloads and productivity. Some businesses may look upon BYOD as relinquishing the control they have over both staff productivity and internal data and can be deterred as a result. Data security is an important consideration for any commercial enterprise and the penalties associated with breaches of confidential information are heavy.
An unstoppable trend?
It has been suggested that resistant businesses will ultimately fail to stand in the way of BYOD. It is fueled by the desire from employees to be able to access corporate data and applications regardless of where they are and what the time of day may be. Experts have advised that companies embrace its positive attributes and educate themselves on the potential drawbacks. In Ovum’s study mentioned previously it was found that 15.4 per cent of those who bring their smartphone to work do so without the IT department’s knowledge. Richard Absalom, analyst at Ovum, believes it is wise for companies to take advantage of BYOD. He said of the trend: “Trying to stand in the path of consumerised mobility is likely to be a damaging and futile exercise. “We believe businesses are better served by exploiting this behavior to increase employee engagement and productivity, and promote the benefits of enterprise mobility.”
What does it mean for the smaller businesses?
Small and medium-sized businesses are the ones who can arguably feel the gain most strongly. These enterprises do not have to pay for multiple devices and this makes a big difference when they do not have access to extensive budgets. Absalom stated his expectation that higher BYOD usage would be seen in smaller businesses over time. On the flip-side of this however he warned that these businesses face particularly detrimental security and management issues if they fail to properly manage employees’ devices in the workplace. He said: “Whatever sized business you are you don’t want data to go missing, but data loss for small businesses could spell the end in terms of legal and reputational costs if core IP goes missing. “It’s in businesses’ best interests to explore freemium offerings out there, such as mobile device management launches that offer a basic free product and then try to get you to buy into it.”
Finding the balance
The growing momentum of BYOD is perhaps due to the relative simplicity of the concept. Members of staff don’t have to be constrained if they can work in a variety of places and if they can continue projects outside of office hours. The advantages are there for all to see that’s not to say that BYOD will work for every single business – organisations must evaluate the pros and cons in close relation to how they operate before adopting a BYOD policy. Plans must be in place for damaged or stolen equipment and one possible approach to this potential problem is using an app to track lost devices. Malware and viruses are also things that must be considered as keeping customer data safe is of paramount importance for businesses. In order to safeguard confidential data, robust anti-virus and security software must be purchased and rolled out across the stable of devices within a BYOD scheme. This throws up potential problems however as the owners of those devices might not agree to having third-party software installed and licences for this type of software can be very expensive, thus negating the money saving effects of implementing a BYOD scheme. Businesses who are open to new developments and innovation should be commended but the message is to not simply approve BYOD without setting a clearly-defined policy. Sandboxing, which is isolating an app from outside threats, is a helpful measure to implement, as are passcodes and anti-malware. Apps can be used which let the employee log into the office network securely, so within the device you are using you essentially get another workspace on it and it is one you can separate from your personal space. This allows a balance to be struck between security from the company’s perspective and freedom of use for the employee, which in essence is what BYOD is all about. So, having considered all of the above, you can see why the trend looks to continue. Whether it’ll be one that changes the workplace for the better for everyone concerned remains to be seen as BYOD is as a concept is in its infancy, but the initial signs look promising.