BYOD or ‘Bring Your Own Device’ is a relatively new opportunity that has arisen, due to the fact that even the largest corporation can struggle to keep up with the constant rate of technological change, providing state-of-the-art devices to all their employees and their often diverse roles. Technically, BYOD has been around for decades on a small scale but it has now proliferated to a mainstream audience due to low-cost smartphones, Tablets, and data speeds that are on par with fixed-line broadband.
In years gone by, you couldn't exactly sneak a PC into the office as you can a Tablet or smartphone. Connecting to the network and corporate data assets was impossible without IT support. Today, with web-enabled internal systems, and wireless spots all over a company campus, it's easy.
Very often, the devices employees have at home or in their pockets are far more powerful than those provided for them by the enterprise, So what if you as an employee have an ancient feature phone issued to you at work that runs on an old Symbian or BlackBerry OS, and your company phone doesn't do much else other than email? The result is frustration.
So what happens if you try and get your company's IT department to accept and adapt to your devices? The results are additional costs, delays, and confusion. This scenario is particularly relevant to the burgeoning number of flexible home- and field-working generation of employees, who may well toil away outside of company hours, and therefore, probably outside of IT department operating hours.
The standard objection to the idea of BYOD has been security, but with improved systems and the growth of the cloud, security, while still a big concern, need not be insurmountable. Critics of the strategy also claim that people may do things with their own equipment they wouldn't consider doing with a company phone or laptop. Companies thinking of this sort of change must also take into account the fact that friends and family often have access to personal devices, opening up more potential security risks.
There are corporations out there that do offer a BYOD package, acknowledging that existing systems were far too limiting, for example, if you wanted to use more. They encourage their people to buy their own devices and access their work remotely from home or on the go. The benefits are clear - under the new system the IT support staff are more likely to be free to do other critical work. Understandably, in this enlightened age, work/life balance is another driving factor - employees can use these systems from anywhere, enabling those who wish to focus on work at home to do so in a more relaxed fashion.
There are other business models where an opportunity is given to the employee to buy their own devices. Perhaps an allowance provided to buy a standard model, with the employee offered the chance to upgrade at their own cost. Unsurprisingly, it appears that most employees love having the freedom to choose the smartphone or tablet they carry with them.
On the whole, however, it is evident that most corporate IT departments are ill-equipped to deal with this growing trend of employees using their personal devices for work. Instead of saying "no" and fighting with users, IT departments should embrace this change, looking at policy, platforms, and practises that will help them manage expectations and address critical issues like security and data protection. It is heartening to see more suppliers tackle the supply-side of this problem by providing enterprise mobile device management platforms and solutions. The ball is in IT's court.
Sarat Pediredla is managing director of mobile marketing agency, hedgehog lab