Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BYOD is not just about mobile technology

When discussing BYOD, the conversation frequently ends up with a focus on mobile technology and devices. It is easy to think of the ‘young upstart’ who has the latest smartphone and wants to use it as a status symbol while at work. But findings from a recent survey of 727 IT and business respondents show that age does not come into this. In fact when asked in an open ended question which types of employees were most likely to want to use their own equipment for work, executives, directors and managers were mentioned as a close second to IT staff.

Whether people are 20 something or 60+ years old they ‘like what they like’ and furthermore, this not only applies to mobile devices. Home desktop PC’c and Mac’s are up there with Smartphones being used for work purposes, with notebooks/laptops not far behind, (Figure 1).
    Figure 1 
The reasons for using personal equipment are myriad; maybe it is a ‘status symbol’, or perhaps the kit supplied by the company is not familiar to the user and training hasn’t been given. There are then situations where the company has not provided what is needed at all. As a consequence users like to go to what they know best and what they have available. As one respondent puts it:
“When one hits an issue that cannot be overcome using company tech, anyone will look to find a solution outside it...especially against a deadline on a Friday afternoon.”
Whatever the reason, the fact is that BYOD is happening in many areas. Although the use of personal devices for work can be positive (e.g. enhanced employee satisfaction/productivity) and some employers my even approve the use, a potential concern is how many of these devices are being used ‘unofficially’ (Figure 2).
    Figure 2
It’s interesting to note from the above chart that while the use of personal tablets gets a lot of the headlines around BYOD, the unofficial use of mobile phones, smartphones and good old-fashioned Windows PC’s and laptops is an even bigger phenomenon.
It’s worth mentioning here that, due to the self-selecting nature of this survey, the percentages are likely to be inflated as people with more of an interest in user empowerment (the topic of the survey) are likely to be more mindful about BYOD and therefore to have responded.
When asked about the risks of using personal equipment for work purposes it is unsurprising that security and compliance related issues were the top cited concerns. So what can be done to ease the burdens?
The easiest way to deal with the request to use personal equipment would be to supply employees with the kit that they want in the first place on a fully funded and supported basis, but obviously this may not be possible in all cases.
Of course in general terms, the way forward is likely to involve elements of policy, process and management tooling to deal with the challenges that arise from BYOD. There are many scenarios and dependencies when it comes to the practicalities, however, and a lot also depends on the context. It’s therefore beyond the scope of this article to give specific advice or identify specific solutions. Suffice it to say that a good starting point would be to ensure each employee’s technology and support requirements are assessed based on their individual needs. Accurate information of this kind is essential for informed and objective decisions to be made on where to start or ‘what to do next’.

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