BYOD needs to be personal

Rob Borley
by
on 17 April 2013

Things have changed. Time was when the most powerful computing devices sat on your desk at work. The latest technology, the best software, the newest hardware that an individual used was that which they used 9 to 5. Not anymore! This shift has been happening over a number of years. Personal Computers and Laptops have become a feature of most homes. The cost of this hardware has tumbled and combined with the ever increasing speed and capacity of home internet connections the home was at least on a par with whatever an enterprise role could offer.

Pocket power

The consumerisation of mobile technology has taken us to the next level. Now the latest, most powerful, most useful and most desirable technology is in the pocket of each and every one of us. Usefulness and desirability are the key items here. This new generation of mobile devices differ for the personal computing experiences that have gone before them, not only on convenience and utility but also because we love them. We look for ways to use them. We look for ways to involve them in our lives. As a result they hold everything from personal email and instant access to our social networks to family photos and our latest game playing addiction. We take them everywhere. We use them everywhere. This includes the office.

Huge corporate gains.

This is a good thing! Employees are using the technology that they are comfortable with; that they enjoy using to be more efficient and effective in their roles. Granting people the opportunity to use the tools that they want to use increases their happiness and their willingness to go the extra mile for the cause when needed. Our increasingly mobile society is able to blur the boundaries between home and work on their own terms. Provided that employers do not abuse this new phenomena it is something to be embraced. Employees are, after all, grown ups. Giving them the opportunity to manage their work / home time in this was is very positive step.

BYOD Policy

However, I’m sure alarm bells are ringing somewhere! Policy is important. A business needs to protect itself; its time, its data, its network, its good name. BYOD (Bring your own device) presents new challenges that are not as easy to solve as they may first appear.

  1. Data security is an obvious issue.
    Devices joining your network from an unknown origin to be taken to an unknown destination raises concerns for the security of corporate data. And of course, what happens when somebody leaves the organisation?
  2. Network security is also a concern.
    These unknown devices may have software or malware waiting to cause havoc on your network.
  3. Network capacity is potentially a problem too.
    Each individual will be likely to have multiple devices; phones, tablets, others. Each of these devices could be on the network at the same time and each of them could be engaging in background activity left over from their home use. i.e. software updates.
  4. Device maintenance and ownership is a can of worms.
    What happens when a device that an employee has come to rely upon to effectively do their job is broken or lost and the individual chooses not to replace it? What if it’s broken on site?

This is just a flavour of the things that need to be considered.

BYOD lockdown

The obvious answer is to lock it all down. Restrict the devices, restrict their access to systems, restrict the things that can be done with them, effectively silo work and home use. This is not the answer and actually goes against the positives that BYOD generates. The power of BYOD is to allow users to merge personal and work use of the device. Always on, instant access is the big draw to using this new breed of mobile device. Forcing users to context switch is enough of a barrier to take the benefits away altogether. Employees will come to resent the restrictions, the time wasted and the eventual need to carry multiple devices. Organisations must not turn these objects of desire and joy into a burden. A BYOD policy needs to allow for the personal as well as the work side of life. These are deeply personal devices. Take that away and benefits are lost.

Significant challenge

There are no easy solutions in seeking this balance. Please share your own experience below or get in touch with me at Dootrix if you want to dicuss this.

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