Decades ago, the laptop planted the seed for what has now become one of today’s most rapidly evolving workplace trends: Bring Your Own
Device (BYOD). Driven by the introduction of new technology, desire to increase employee productivity and interest in reduced liability, employers are embracing BYOD policies in droves – permitting employees to use personally owned iPads, tablets, computers and smartphones for work-related tasks. Whether in the office, at home or on-location, BYOD allows for effortless device connectivity and exchange of data and information anywhere, anytime.
Unsurprisingly, this growing trend is neither limited to the U.S. nor to large companies. According to a recent global study by Cisco IBSG, India, China and Mexico encourage BYOD adoption, while European countries – cautious with more restrictive policies – are adopting at a slower pace. Among the 5,000 companies Cisco (News - Alert) surveyed, 89 percent allow – and, in some instances require – employees to bring their own devices to work and report significant increases in profitability, flexibility and productivity, while their employees gain privileges in mobility and freedom to choose from a wide range of devices and applications.
Long-Term Implications of Unanswered Questions
Early indicators of BYOD popularity point to increased implementation of the global trend yet, even as it continues on an upward trajectory, organizations reserve skepticism. The complexity of managing multiple-platform devices casts a pall on the movement’s short-term benefits, forcing companies to weigh the costs of providing secure access to a corporate network while implementing necessary measures to address the following potential hazards:
- Loss of sensitive company or client data
- Unauthorized access to the corporate network
- Viruses or Trojan horses
- Lost or stolen devices
- Device management complexities
- Data-usage bandwidth impacts
- Non-compliance with industry standards
- IT maintenance and support responsibilities
- Unapproved software and application downloads
- Employee piracy
Navigating the Gray Zone
Corporate risk from BYOD not only encompasses network security, but also the hidden costs of potential liability issues surrounding compromised personal data and company information. These unexpected and unforeseen legal costs, if not properly addressed within policies, can mount quickly and diminish advantages gained through personal device use.
Another factor recently coming into play is the overarching question of reimbursement. A recent California court decision ruled that, when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, their employer is required reimburse them. Whether the employees have mobile plans with limited or unlimited minutes, the reimbursement owed is now a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills. How will this recent decision impact use of other devices like laptops and tablets?
Companies interested in deploying BYOD policies need to be prepared to answer questions that, at least for now, reside in the gray zone, such as, “Is reimbursement retroactive? How will companies address reimbursement to employees who have been using their own devices for years? What about reimbursement for those who have left the company but used their own devices while still part of the team?”
While organizations cutting corners to save money may be thrown off by new regulations and veer away from BYOD implementation before realizing its true potential, companies recognizing the value of employee mobility will not waver. Mobile devices may be more sophisticated than ever, but they have never been easier to use. With the availability of an unlimited selection of applications and cloud services, older company-owned and operated devices no longer resonate with the employees of today, who have come to expect more flexibility and freedom in exchange for increased productivity. The short-term benefits of BYOD deployment, for both employer and employee, are well documented, but the jury is still out on long-term profitability.
Work as a Way of Life
Perhaps, when laptops first started emerging in significant numbers during the 1990s, similar debates were taking place among industry leaders who questioned everything from screen size to the potential need for redesigning software for the new medium of connectivity. They certainly questioned the inherent longevity and relevance of the laptop’s future, along with its ability to keep the corporate network and its sensitive data secure. Only time will tell the trends’ implications, potential profits, risks and staying power.
For now, companies considering BYOD should seriously examine the potential advantages it brings to how workforces remotely connect, securely collaborate and continuously engage.
Ashley Leonard is president and CEO of Verismic Software, a global industry leader providing cloud-based IT management technology and green solutions, and a technology entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in enterprise software, sales, operational leadership and marketing, including nearly two decades as a successful senior corporate executive and providing critical leadership during high-growth stages of well-known technology industry pioneers. He founded Verismic in 2012, after successfully selling his former company, NetworkD (News - Alert), an infrastructure management software organization. In his present role, Leonard works tirelessly to establish Verismic as the leading provider of IT endpoint management solutions delivered from the cloud by building beneficial industry partnerships and creating a strong, innovation-driven culture within the Verismic workforce, all while delivering returns to Verismic’s investors. Verismic’s latest offering, Cloud Management Suite (CMS), is an agentless, cloud-based IT management software solution that is revolutionizing the way IT professionals engage in endpoint management.
Edited by Maurice Nagle