The growth in mobile device usage has grown exponentially in the past decade and promises to be even greater in the next five years. Soon there will be nearly two mobile devices for every man, woman and child on the planet!
With businesses finding the costs of supplying mobile devices for their employees a daunting expense, and the inevitable usage of personal devices for company use, management often concedes the point to allow it. While management can’t necessarily stop employees from bringing their own devices to work, the need for regulation has become a new concern.
What are Personal Devices?
Personal devices come in all forms: tablets, cell phones, laptops, watches and cloud-based add-ons. Many of these devices have proven their worth in business development as well as with client and employee relations. The advantages are clear but it’s the disadvantages that have become a point of contention for many companies.
Advantages of Bring Your Own Device Policy
The act of using one’s personal device is called BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Many companies have implemented BYOD programs to lessen the number of personal devices their employees have and to take advantage of the multitude of mobile devices people already possess.
The advantages to a BYOD policy are obvious:
- Cost. BYOD saves money by preventing the need to purchase additional products for employees. Instead, employees bring and use the devices that they already own. This includes cell phone, tablets and portable computers. The employee usually already owns these devices so being allowed to use them makes things easier for everyone involved. .
- Familiarity. When an employee uses their own equipment, there is a very short learning curve. They’re already familiar with the devices, they don’t need to be trained and basic maintenance is minimal. Also, they trust their devices and recognize their capabilities so they can utilize the equipment for their best results.
- Flexibility. The devices that the employees own are a known variable. They know the device works at home, the office, in the car, at a worksite, during lunch and, often, overseas. The employee has options and this makes them comfortable, more confident in getting their work done and promotes better work habits and increases productivity.
Disadvantages of Bring Your Own Device Policy
While there are plenty of advantages to BYOD, there are risks and disadvantages associated as well.
The use of one’s own mobile device for work is a touchy subject. The idea has merit since it pays to use what you know, lowers the costs for the company and the employee feels comfortable. However, those are personal advantages. When it comes to s business, the disadvantages are quite hefty.
- Cost to the employee. Most companies are now implementing the use of BYOD programs. They want to make use of the advantages to cost. However, there are many employees that do not have those devices, or the devices they have are not compatible or appropriate for work. This means that they have to purchase them on their own, often without corporate assistance. Many employees feel bullied into making unnecessary purchases and find it difficult to anticipate the level of work they will someday be doing to merit such a purchases.
- Device variance. There are so many brands of devices out that it’s hard to determine which device will serve the employee best, or which will take the most advantage of the company’s network. Many people are loyal Apple users and find that their devices are wonderful but more for personal than professional use. Others believe in Windows based tablets and smartphones, but find that they cannot use their devices as universally as they need to.
- Security. Perhaps the most prevalent of issues, security is key. When it comes to personal devices for professional use, the question is always the same: how secure is our system? This question is asked of both the company and the employee. Personal devices have access to key client information, leaving the door open for theft and espionage. Personal devices are also open to the company’s network making personal documents, bank statements and credit information available to the company. Also, there is little prevention for an employee to leave the company without taking proprietary information with them.
Considerations for Bring Your Own Device Policy
There are a few things that any BYOD program must consider before putting the safety of the company, the employees, and the clients at risk.
- Secure security network. The network needs to be able to limit access to certain information and handle the potential viruses and operating systems that employees may have.
- Consensus. The employees must all understand that a BYOD program is being implemented and that they have the compatible, secure equipment to do their work without incident. They must also know that they are protected from internal hacking and that there are penalties for taking such actions themselves.
- Ownership. When a personal device is in use, the employee is responsible for it. If the employee does not wish to take responsibility, they must have the company’s support to get the equipment they need to do their work.
- Protection. While on a work assignment, the company must also implement policies to protect the employee from theft and damage of their personal property. The company must also have an informed IT department that can handle the different devices that need updates, upgrades and access, and have the means of limiting that access as necessary.
Before allowing your employees to bring and work freely on their own devices, keep these advantages, disadvantages, and considerations in mind.