BYOD is a relatively new acronym. No, it does not mean Bring Your Own Drink. It stands for Bring Your Own Device. By device, it means smartphone, tablet or laptop. Conceptually, it means that the user is using their own personal device rather than one issued by the company they work for.
Historically, computing resources were expensive and not widely used by consumers outside of the companies they worked for. Over the past decade, the cost for these devices has dropped. In addition, the devices have become more functional. As such, employees are upgrading from traditional cell phones to smartphones. They are also starting to use tablet devices and laptops more than desktop systems. And workers entering the workforce today started life in the computing age. Therefore, gaining a greater comfort with computing devices in everyday life compared with those of us…ah-hem…that are older.
As “smart” devices becoming more prevalent, their use for everyday things from communication with friends to buying a latte increases accordingly. Users get accustomed to using certain devices. Those devices also gained the ability to interface with corporate environments. While a company could still issue a smartphone to an employee, it would duplicate the capabilities of their existing device. And the employee is more likely to have their personal smartphone with them wherever they go than a company-issued smartphone. Similarly, the cost of tablets and laptop computers is decreasing to a point where many consumers prefer the flexibility it provides rather than a bulky desktop computer. It is another device with duplicate capabilities of that company-issued model.
Company Issued Device vs. Stipend: Where Does Responsibility Go?
Companies are increasingly looking at novel ways to embrace this change. It does take much of the responsibility off the company and moves it to the employee. One option is to replace the company-issued device with a stipend to offset the cost to the employee. This then puts the responsibility for the device in the hands of the employee. Are employees ready for this responsibility? In many cases the answer is yes. They are already managing their personal device and ensuring that they have a computer, phone or other communication device anyway. The risk is relatively low to shift this responsibility to the employee. And the benefit to shed capital costs from the company is positive too.
Prevention, Control and Support
While this seems like a significant trend, can it be stopped or prevented? The short answer is: No. At the CES 2012 conference in Las Vegas this week, manufacturers announced several new laptops, tablets and phones. Even more phone announcements are expected at Mobile World Congress in February. And each new model of device adds to the functionality and usability. The best advice for corporations is to embrace the trend and support BYOD. That does not mean venturing into BYOD with your eyes closed. There are several decisions to make around the support and management of data related to the devices. Clear lines of responsible are needed. Organizations should expect that some level of support is still required on behalf of the company. However, it pales in comparison with complete support of company-issued devices.
Security and Data Management
There is one area that is more important than device support. It has to do with security and data management. In the case of company-issued devices, the company directly controls the data contained within the device. When the employee separates from the company, the device is returned…along with the data. In the case of BYOD, the data is stored on an employee-owned device. Companies need to take precautions to segregate corporate data from personal data. And in the case of separation, provide a means to adequately destroy corporate data located on the personal system or device. Today, there are tools that assist companies in managing these devices and the data contained within.
In order to support BYOD, the company needs a clear policy around BYOD and a framework to adequately support the various platforms. Without a framework, the risks are great for the company. The framework needs to cover both device support and data management. There are responsibilities for both the company and the employee.
BYOD presents a significant cultural shift for the CIO and their organization. On one hand, it presents increased complexity to management of data. On the other hand, it improves flexibility, capital exposure and employee moral. Even with the challenges, there are tools available today to manage BYOD effectively. In addition, organizational culture changes are needed to understand and engage a BYOD model within the company. BYOD is just one of many significant shifts in the IT world today…with many more to come.
Bottom Line: Support BYOD, but create a framework to protect corporate data and provide adequate support for employees.