BYOD Policies: More Issues than a Company Picnic

As companies move towards mobility efficiency, certain strategic questions must be answered. One of the first questions to consider is whether an enterprise will allow employees to use personal smart devices for company business. Otherwise known as Bring-Your-Own-Device, BYOD policies and strategies can benefit a company but have many pitfalls to consider.

While most executives will answer an immediate yes to should employees be allowed to use their own devices, namely in consideration of device expense, there are issues to consider. Such as, how will the company track the device? What happens when an employee leaves the company? Who owns the data stored on the device?

Ultimately, IT departments are left to solve for security and privacy.

So, is it smart for a company to allow individuals to use their own personal devices?

Prevalence of smartphones

As with any technology, uptake can be slow at the beginning. Pew Research Center began tracking smartphone usage in 2011, with only 35% of Americans using the technology. General population usage meant companies who felt it was important for employees to be accessible outside the office were required to provide devices. Thus, the introduction of Blackberry and other devices for email and file access.

However, as with most technology that brings efficiencies and serve a purpose, uptake has increased significantly. The current Pew survey found 77% of Americans own and utilize a smartphone.
95% of individuals own a smartphone between the ages of 18 – 29.

This mean employees are coming into the office with devices in hand, and it also means employees are more inclined to reject having another device assigned. Five years ago employees were happy to receive a device from their employers. Now employees are rejecting the requirement of carrying two devices.

How does a company adapt to the prevalence of smartphones in the general public? By allowing BYOD policies.

Upside to BYOD

As mentioned, on the surface BYOD policies seem like a brilliant idea from a business standpoint. By allowing employees use of their own devices, an enterprise pays out less in hardware expenses.
Employees are accessible to the company without the hassles of procurement, provisioning, and replacing of outdated hardware. The employee takes on the responsibility for almost all aspects of the hardware lifecycle.

BYOD policies can also increase employee engagement. While smartphones are very similar across all manufacturers, people prefer one OS over another. Very often a person will overtly state they prefer iOS versus Android, or visa versa. No longer does an IT department have to hear complaining about which OS is provided by the company.

Yet the upsides also bring about more complications for an IT department.

Necessary considerations of BYOD policies

One of the first things for any IT department to consider is which OS they are willing to support. Should the BYOD policy allow for both Apple and Android? Does the OS have certain requirements in order for the IT department to support?

Because, although the cost of hardware is on the employee, support for company data and apps still falls on the IT department.

Another item for consideration is reimbursement. The business is relieved from hardware expenses, but there are other expenses and risks to consider. HR and Finance departments will have to consider reimbursement for time the employee utilizes the phone for company time. Most companies will assign tiers of reimbursement, based on level within the company and amount of out of office work expected.

Of course, tiers are only applicable for salaried individuals. Wage laws complicate access on a completely different level.

The above considerations are the easiest to answer, though. The hardest consideration to solve for is security of company data and the line between security and privacy.

Privacy of BYOD

Companies have an obligation to keep all data secure at all times. Employees have a right to privacy of their lives separate from the company. With BYOD policies, the lines begin to blur.
Employees will have concerns about access to their personal data, and companies will have concerns about access to their company data.

Fortunately, there are many EMM, MDM, and MAM software options that can solve for both. While it’s easy for an IT department to wipe an entire phone that belongs to the company, IT needs more advanced MDM software to differentiate between personal and company.

Another direction companies can choose is VPN access into the company server by way of an app or WLAN access. Certain protocols need to be in effect, such as the restricting copy and paste.
Regardless the option an enterprise chooses for security, a policy must be signed by the employee before utilizing any method of access into the personal phone. Otherwise, a company opens themselves to a host of litigation risks.

BYOD is doable

Despite the considerations and downsides of BYOD, allowing employees to be bring their own devices is not something a company should snub. Younger employees will have their own devices and forcing a second device upon them might bring more problems than solve.

If a company has intent about their BYOD strategy, creates policies to protect both the employee and the company, and is transparent with their employees, BYOD can be a great tool.

Read here for how MobileWare’s maestro platform can secure, support, and align your company’s BYOD strategy.

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