June 19, 2013
BYOD is far more than just allowing your staff to check their email on their personal mobile. It’s about the security of corporate information – we’re all demanding more flexible working to fit our lifestyles, but with flexibility comes personal responsibility. Are we rushing to join the BYOD party without realising some of the more serious considerations. A recent article on OfficeInsight considered a Gartner survey which suggested that BYOD would be prevalent by 2017. The article implied that companies should embrace this as an inevitable change. Before we get too excited, though, let’s explore some of the issues that BYOD should be raising for employers – including the technical demands that these policies make on IT departments and infrastructure, and the compliance IT departments will demand of staff.
1. What is the business case for not using a corporate laptop/tablet or phone?
Do the demands for BYOD just stem from staff not wanting to carry two phones? The company gives out a laptop and a mobile phone with corporate encryption devices, so why do we need to access email or applications on any other device? Don’t tell me it’s about flexible working. It’s more about laziness, and the fact that people can access Facebook and Twitter easily on their own phones.
2. Are users prepared to take full responsibility for the device and what happens to it?
The bottom line for IT departments is data privacy and security. Their role is to protect the corporate machine’s information. How can they be expected to manage that duty if there is no personal responsibility from staff?
Those who are demanding to use their own device in the workplace should know this:
• They will be expected to meet some network security configurations before they gain access to corporate information and data.
• It will be their responsibility to have firmware and antivirus compliant to set standards on their devices
• Their IT department can no longer fix their device, nor is it their responsibility to.
• If a device is lost, it’ becomes their responsibility to supply another – or more importantly to fund it and quickly so that no work productivity is lost.
For BYOD to work, management of the security of the device has to be pushed to the end user, and this is the control for which users have to accept responsibility. IT departments are here to help the gen C workforce become connected, but not without setting some expectations.
3. Have you considered the gadget elitism a BYOD policy can cause?
What about the people who can’t afford to bring in the next tech gadget – are you creating social ranks within the office? Will those using an older model of phone struggle with their work because it doesn’t process fast enough? Schools often cite the avoidance of elitism as a reason for adopting a school uniform – and the same principle holds true for using company devices: each user gets the same treatment.
4. Will buying devices and paying for phone contracts become a headache?
Are users happy to pay for their phone contracts while accessing work information? What if they are travelling and data tariff restrictions come into play – not working so flexibly now, are they? Are there tax implications if staff are given money to buy a phone – is it a perk?
5. How do you manage employees who move on?
Imagine you employ a busy sales rep with lots of contacts. They use their own phone to access emails, make calls and receive calls from customers, but it’s their phone – and, importantly, their number. So what happens when they move to work for a competitor, and lo and behold your top client rings them? After all, it’s their phone – have you, as their last employer, simply lost out? Or worse still: does the approach to data security mean they can still access your corporate data?
So before you rush to allow your employees to use their own devices, consider the questions above – and if you don’t feel BYOD is right for your company, there are alternatives. For example, why not simply acknowledge that people use corporate devices for personal activities? The company provides a selection of devices that they are happy to support – involving staff in the choice of devices on offer – and then lets staff get on with both work and private use.
BYOD can be a positive thing for staff if they are aware of the issues, but consider a larger corporate discussion internally that is right for your company culture before jumping in with two feet to avoid headaches at a later stage.
Julia Johnston is a commentator on workplace issues and an independent consultant with Venture Spaces and was formerly a practicing facilities manager.