Five ways BYOD policies are changing the role of IT in the workplace

BYODIf you’ve ever considered adopting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy you probably know all about its potential benefits. It lets team members work on devices they’re comfortable with. It makes work more convenient. In some cases, it can lower your technology costs. None of these ideas are new, and indeed, much has already been said about how BYOD might impact the end user. But there’s another side of the BYOD story. The other, perhaps more dramatic way that a new policy can change the workplace is through your IT employees and infrastructure. Lots of times, companies tend to underestimate the big internal shifts that precede policy changes—but planning for these shifts is a major part of developing a cohesive strategy. If you’ve already made up your mind and are ready to adopt a BYOD policy, then you should also be ready to encounter some new and unexpected variables. What role will your IT be play under this policy? What kinds of cultural challenges should you begin to expect? How will you adjust? By preparing for new obstacles and expectations, you can create an effective, adaptive BYOD game plan. Here are some of the most important things you should prepare for as you move forward with your BYOD policy.

1. IT the hero, IT the friend

The biggest benefit of BYOD is that it turns your IT team into a group of enablers who streamline employee workflows by allowing them to use their own technology. Instead of being seen as gatekeepers who merely set up employees and then hold the line, they become a more positive, more interactive force in workplace technology. In addition, when your employees have issues with their own devices, they may end up viewing your IT as a group of personal troubleshooters.

In addition to becoming workplace enablers, your IT teams will also become educators. Under a BYOD policy, it’s no longer sufficient to pre-load a corporate device with company software and simply hand a new employee a waiver to sign. Instead, the onboarding process becomes an integral part of IT. During a new hire’s first days, device setup will be an absolute priority so that the team member can get used to their new software and acclimate to IT policy requirements.

2. A new call for transparency

When employees are using their own devices in the workplace, it becomes necessary for businesses to be able to maintain some semblance of control over said devices. If an employee loses a device, for instance, a standard procedure is to remotely wipe the device of sensitive information. As you imagine, this can create a rift in trust between teams and the IT staff who have control over their devices.

Even though MDM (mobile device management) software is commonplace, it’s important for IT to stay ahead of it. Let your employees know exactly how IT can control their devices, and set clear lines in the sand in a way that’s transparent about usage policies. In addition to providing a printed copy of your usage policies, you may also consider giving new employees a quick briefing to let them know what IT can and can’t do with their devices. If you’re open and forthcoming about your MDM, you can keep employee privacy concerns to an absolute minimum.

3. Tackling the latest questions

The first thing you’ll notice when you adopt a BYOD policy is that you’ll have a huge list of questions that need answering. And that list will only get bigger as you get deeper and deeper into your implementation. How, for instance, should IT handle resignations, terminations, or layoffs of BYOD employees? What if a team member loses their device? What happens when a team member’s device becomes obsolete? When you adopt a BYOD policy, it’s important to think of every scenario possible and seek out ways to address them before they crop up.

One of the biggest questions you’ll have to deal with is how to handle enormous lists of licenses and accounts for new apps and services. These programs will spread across employee devices, and require lots of careful curation. As more of your company’s technology moves to the cloud, there will become more to account for, and IT will be forced to compile comprehensive lists of software for their BYOD users. This will be one of the most significant BYOD paradigm shifts, and you should prepare appropriately.

4. Beefing up what you’ve already got

When your employees’ devices run the platform gamut, it can become extremely complex to keep track of all the security measures needed to make your technology safe. For this reason, BYOD has frequently been viewed as a risky IT policy. In any BYOD environment, wireless infrastructure must be robust and reliable than usual, with multiple authentication factors and strong NAC to keep sensitive data locked down.

In addition to protecting company networks, IT teams also need to stay ahead of the BYOD curve when it comes to protecting company data. IT should always know exactly where data is located, where it goes, and finally—they should always be aware of who has access to it.

5. Building bridges across teams

Because of the crossover between private and corporate usage of BYOD hardware, policy development is an extremely important issue. Because of this, IT cannot work alone. Inevitably, it will become necessary to run policies by HR. For this reason, it’s just as important for HR professionals to prepare for BYOD as it is for IT. By preparing for this unique, comprehensive form of crossover, your teams can strike an ideal balance between what works best for the business while also avoiding infringements on employee privacy.

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Himanshu 2Himanshu Sareen is an Indian entrepreneur and corporate executive. He is the founder and CEO of Icreon, an IT consultancy and software solutions firm with offices in the US, UK and India. Himanshu is also a contributor to Wired.com and other titles writing about the IT industry, entrepreneurship and global technology trends.

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