From the June 2012 Issue.
Employees are bringing the mobile devices they’ve purchased with their own money into the workplace and asking to connect them to company data. This growing trend is referred to as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or the consumerization of IT and is one that deserves your attention. It is rapidly replacing the days of the IT department selecting and requiring the type of device the organization issues and supports.
Many firms are now allowing employees to purchase the smartphone or tablet of their choice and access firm data. While BYOD does create some unique challenges for firms and their IT departments, it also opens up some good benefits for both the employees and the organization.
The benefits of letting employees choose their own mobile devices are numerous. Here are just a few:
- Employees get a choice – It’s amazing how much putting the choice in the hands of the employee can boost morale. For many people, mobile devices have become a fashion accessory and speak to their personality. As with other accessories, it’s important to them that they have a choice.
- Employees already know how to use it – A lot of the burden is actually taken off of IT for support, maintenance and troubleshooting because employees are using the devices in their personal lives as well. They’re much more willing to spend their own time figuring out how it works for personal tasks than work related endeavors. Often times, this tinkering leads to better trained end-users on the business side, as well.
- The firm avoids owning hardware and ongoing mobile contracts – The employees own the devices and usually set up the service in their own names. This eliminates the need for IT to manage an inventory of mobile devices as employees come and go. More importantly, the firm doesn’t have to manage the ongoing contracts.
- The equipment can go with the employee if they leave and the data can be wiped – When employees do leave, BYOD makes the departure much cleaner. You simply wipe the company data from the device and the employee keeps the phone or tablet. They can restore or keep all their personal data and move on to their next destination. This is a much smoother transition for all parties involved.
- Employees are more productive – When employees can use their own devices, they are more mobile and see an increase in efficiency and productivity. According to an iPass survey of 1100 mobile workers, “employees who use mobile devices for both work and personal issues put in 240 more hours per year than those who do not.”
While there are many benefits to BYOD, it doesn’t come without its challenges. The good news is that IT departments are figuring out ways to overcome these challenges rather than using them as excuses to resist the BYOD trend.
- Security is easier to manage on company owned devices – Obviously, it’s easier to manage security issues when the devices and environment is controlled by IT. The devices can be locked down and IT’s primary concern is not about balancing the user’s ability to use the device for both personal and business purposes.
- Life-Work Balance is challenged – Employees have an even harder time turning off work than they did before a single device put their personal and work affairs at their fingertips 24/7. The fact that it’s easy to take care of minor work items quickly from your mobile device at any time can often infringe on personal time. This is evident by the iPass survey results I mentioned previously.
- Policies aren’t keeping up with the trend – Boomer Consulting, Inc. recently conducted a mobile survey of 430 professionals in CPA firms and found that BYOD is already occurring but most firms are lagging behind in having a policy that specifically addresses it. For more information on the survey results you can read my April 11, 2012, blog post on CPAPracticeAdvisor.com.
So what can you do to ensure you are prepared for BYOD? Start by doing your homework. Make sure you understand the pros and cons of BYOD and read as much as you can on the topic. Once you’ve educated yourself, make sure that you have a written mobile device policy that covers BYOD.
The policy should cover things such as the systems that can be accessed, whether/when a device can be remote wiped and how much employees will be reimbursed for the device and data plan. Finally, make sure you communicate and train employees on the policy. After all, it’s worthless if no one knows about it.