The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) option is a growing desire of employees and an initiative of importance for many employers. According to IBM
, employees typically are more comfortable with a personal device and become expert using it, making them more productive.
Often, personal devices are more cutting-edge so the company benefits from use of the latest features. Also, making it possible for employees to use personal devices helps them avoid having to keep track of and learn multiple devices. Gartner predicts
that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes.
BYOD is driven by the explosion of new mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops and desktop devices that are outside the norm of the company’s support. Examples include an Apple laptop in an organization that supports only Windows-based computers or a Linux developer who wants Linux on their day-to-day machine for email, messaging and productivity tools in an organization that does not have a laptop or desktop software build for Linux. The employee might want to use a personal Linux computer, however companies have standard builds for Internet-facing computers to manage risk by ensuring they have a secure OS that is periodically patched and has the necessary networking and security additions.
There are a number of concerns about using personal devices at work. Security is the challenge that most often arises for mobile devices. Consider mobile device passwords. Just like laptops or desktop computers, employees using mobile devices must set a strong password. For personal devices, employees may not be as diligent with passwords as they are when the company supplies the device because corporate devices have strict standards.
Another security concern is related to mobile applications. Before you download an application, you should know what resources the application will have access to on your device. If the application does not supply the necessary information, then you should not install it. Also, the source of the applications must be a trusted one.
Support costs for service desk, software installation and maintenance must also be considered as an obstacle to BYOD. Experts suggest that companies proactively install software to automatically accept, configure and remediate employee-owned mobile devices. This way, when employees first access the network, support personnel will have tools to help solve problems just like any other know device.
These obstacles have been overcome by a number of companies. This required planning, policy and action but these challenges can be successfully handled.
Don’t Ignore the Advantages
For the employee, the use of BYOD could result in less duplication when one smartphone, used for business and personal use, replaces one work and one personal phone. An employee-owned tablet could result in improved employee satisfaction from using the latest device versus a more traditional, company-supplied laptop. Improved productivity could also result from using tools that the employee knows and uses frequently running on devices that are easy to use. These devices would provide uplift for people who are trying to do their job better.
For the employer, embracing BYOD can save money by shifting device costs to the employee. Device costs are not the only costs to consider, as making way for BYOD will likely have an impact on software, service and support costs. Some software costs will be reduced because the OS and some of its related software will come with the employee-supplied device. Work to keep the software updated will fall in part to the company support organization, but overall this is still likely to result in some licensing savings.
Other benefits are likely to result when smartphones and tablets are used in strategic ways beyond email and simple productivity tools. A sales or support technician can be very productive when a mobile application supports key business functions like customer-relationship management. There is emerging a whole set of applications from industry leaders that make mobile devices indispensible.
Can My IT Department Implement BYOD?
It is possible for the IT department to take the lead with BYOD. There are software products in the marketplace, like MaaS360
, that make it possible to dynamically enroll devices and report on their usage. Their products come with detailed documentation that give you help to plan and implement a BYOD solution using their products.
If you have limited IT resources to plan and implement a BYOD solution, perhaps you want to make use of outside consulting and implementation services. Consulting services could be vendor independent and could include product selection as part of the engagement. Once the planning is completed, you could use implementation services for the software company that you selected to manage BYOD. If you choose implementation services, you could limit the BYOD vendor involvement to setting up a test environment or carrying out the pilot implementation. This way, you get the experience of the vendor implementation team without spending too much money. Also, you get the necessary skills transfer to your team members who will support the product in the future.
You could outsource the BYOD planning, implementation and ongoing support effort. If you do outsource, you will need one or more fairly skilled people to manage the relationship with the outsourcing partner.
Useful Implementation Ideas
You should pilot your implementation, otherwise you might be tempted to plunge, and that is the most risky approach. Also, consider doing the full deployment in phases and this will make the effort more manageable. It is important to train support personnel in the new tools and support procedures, and to document the lessons learned and share them as the project rolls out. You need to utilize a software solution that makes it possible to monitor, manage and report on these devices.
Also, you need to deploy software technology that automates as much as possible. Make changes to existing support applications, like incident problem and change, to make support more straightforward. Make sure you can automatically integrate into the enterprise as much as possible to avoid costly manual efforts.
You should consider security as part of every aspect of the device and its software. Everything done on the mobile device must have a security consideration otherwise you have a potential exposure. Also, you should deploy applications that facilitate file sharing and collaboration, as employees often work jointly on solutions for customers and many other business situations. It isn’t enough to use the technology, you must push it and take advantage of every competitive advantage that it offers.
Your Next Steps
Regardless of how you implement your BYOD strategy, you will probably carry it out as a project. Consider these trigger actions as a guide to help with your thinking:
• Set up a policy regarding corporate and personal data on the same device.
• Determine what devices you will support and create a procedure for getting new devices added as you supplement with new technology over time.
• Implement a management toolset to make policy and technology manageable utilizing automation.
• Train support personnel to handle new responsibilities.
• Share the policy with employees; publish device lists, and details on how to get support.
Do some reading about BYOD and then document several of your ideas before you do it yourself, employ a consultant or outsource the effort. Also, involve other departments including HR, finance and legal, as they need to contribute to a balanced BYOD solution for your company.
Joseph Gulla is the IT leader of Alazar Press, a publisher of children’s literature.