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BYOD: Personal Devices in the Workplace

Establishing a safe, yet practical environment for employee-owned devices

It isn’t surprising that the proliferation of mobile devices and tablets is increasingly blending our professional and personal lives. Text message updates about a school closing interrupt a midday meeting, while business partners on the West Coast expect a prompt response to a 5:00 pm email even though it’s 8:00 pm on the East Coast.

While employers see the benefit of supplying staff with smartphones and tablets, they also know this benefit brings added expenses and risks, such as company-issued equipment being used to play Angry Birds, listen to music, or stream movies on the weekend.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement attempts to thread the needle by allowing employees to use their own devices—i.e. smartphones and tablets—as tools to help with job responsibilities and increase productivity. As Michael Osterman, IT analyst and president of Osterman Research, recently presented in a BYOD Best Practices webinar, BYOD can improve employee productivity, offer anytime/anywhere access to customers and team members, increase employee satisfaction, and lower corporate costs.

While at first glance this may sound like the perfect solution, BYOD usage must be carefully planned and managed to avoid confusion and backfiring. This article discusses several important considerations for establishing a BYOD policy at your company.

Start With the End in Mind
Educator and author Dr. Stephen Covey famously wrote to “start with the end in mind.” When it comes to establishing a BYOD policy for your company, the first place to start is documenting what you want to achieve and what you want to avoid.

For example, common BYOD business objectives include empowering employees, improving communication and collaboration, facilitating business processes, controlling costs, and protecting your network and data. This simple exercise of documenting what BYOD must accomplish can help guide decisions about your policy and which technology and procedural solutions to use.

Technology Solutions
Although by definition BYOD means the employee has purchased and owns the device, it is important for the device to be equipped with technology solutions that manage, secure, and facilitate its use while achieving business objectives.

A primary BYOD concern relates to the device being compromised; that is, either lost or stolen. Osterman cautions, “Content retention and management is more difficult. A lot of corporate content is sitting out on a mobile device and employers don’t have access to it.”

Michael Toms, director of IT at HMC Farms in Kingsburg, CA agrees: “Allowing data to leave the network is always a risky proposition. With leaks at even the highest level of government, it is close to impossible to lock all information up; employers must balance the realities of easier access to corporate data with the benefits that BYOD provides.”