Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) has been one of the most popular business buzz phrases of 2016, as companies of all sizes embrace the growing trend for staff to use their own equipment - mobiles, laptops and tablets - for work purposes.
With a well-managed strategy, BYOD can certainly bring cost savings and boost productivity, but there are IT security and other issues to be wary of. There is no catchall solution, as the merits of introducing such policies vary dramatically according to specific business needs and the dynamics of your workforce, but in this article we’ll outline some of the pros and cons to help you determine whether BYOD is a step worth taking.
A Mobile Workforce Without the Expense
Approximately 80% of employees take personal devices to work, so the scope for exploring BYOD is already present in most workplaces. However, the first thing to consider is the extent to which you actually need staff to work off-site, or remotely access the network.
The primary advantage of allowing access via personal devices is that it facilitates the development of a mobile workforce, without the need for investment in hardware and call or data plans. At a glance, this means increased productivity at little to no extra cost, depending on the level of reimbursement employees may be given for the use of their personal plans.
Your team is then empowered to have greater flexibility, working from just about anywhere using devices with which they are already proficient. One immediate benefit is an improvement in customer response times as staff can handle calls and access relevant files while on the move.
The Pros and Cons of Flexibility
A streamlined workforce with high productivity means tasks are completed in less time, using fewer resources. The additional mobility also enables you to approach projects in a more organic and progressive fashion, facilitating agile development methodologies, and opening the door to international and interdisciplinary collaboration.
However, the ability to work off-site and outside of normal hours can also have drawbacks. It has been speculated that the inability to effectively “switch off” from work may increase worker stress, which not only has a negative impact on their performance, but can have long-term implications for their health and well-being.
As such, it is vital to encourage staff to avoid harmful working practices, and ensure that their participation in any BYOD initiative does not infringe upon their work/life balance.
Security Obligations Could Diminish Returns
Equally, you should be aware of how an individual’s personal use of their device could impact your business. If company files or other sensitive information can be accessed freely from an employee’s phone or tablet, the security of your business servers and storage may be compromised.
Whilst employees have been observed to take more care with personal devices - being less likely to lose or break them - the fact is, there is always a risk of a device connected to your network or containing company files, being mislaid. Additionally, staff may connect to unsecured wireless networks, unintentionally download malicious software, or even give permissions to apps that could inadvertently grant access to sensitive information.
A breach could result in files being tampered with, or even customer data being stolen. At worst, your business could be defrauded, vital files could be lost, or you could face costly legal action over failure to comply with data protection laws.
Of course, you can brief your team on the acceptable use of their device as part of your BYOD scheme, but it is still important to ensure you have adequate safeguards in place to protect your business should a security concern arise.
The thing is, the implementation of additional security is an extra expense, albeit a necessary one. As such, you will need to weigh this against your savings when considering the viability of BYOD for your workforce.
Insurance Costs and Licensing Concerns
On top of the increased IT security, you may need to secure additional corporate licenses. This can apply to any software that your employees use for work, even if it’s via their personal device. One solution is to discuss this with your team, so you can determine whether purchasing additional licenses would be appropriate, and to clarify which pieces of software each individual is covered to use.
Insurance is another must. Even with diligence regarding licensing requirements, a sophisticated security system, and effective network management, things can still slip through the net. Comprehensive insurance protects you if this happens, and while it is an additional cost, it dramatically mitigates the potential expense incurred in the event of a security breach or critical oversight.
Ensure Your Network Can Cope
Finally, you need to consider whether granting access to multiple devices to your wireless network is viable. Too much activity could strain the network, slowing it down for everyone, and causing your business to grind to a halt.
To remedy this, you may need to upgrade your network, or consider whether you need to temporarily scale back your BYOD initiative. Fortunately, many providers can negotiate an ongoing plan enabling you to adjust your usage requirements as your business develops.
More Than Just the Savings
Ultimately, the extent to which BYOD can be beneficial varies from one business to the next. Fortunately, the inherent scalability of a BYOD initiative means you can integrate it gradually, in accordance with your company’s needs. This enables you to fine-tune your policies, and determine an appropriate strategy for their introduction within your workplace.
If your company could benefit from a more flexible or mobile workforce, there is a good chance that BYOD could save you money. But more than that, it can also serve as a form of future-proofing, improving the long-term prospects of your business. The key is to avoid overextending; you do not need to offer the option to use personal devices to everyone if it does not suit your business requirements.
Additionally, it is essential to stay on top of licensing and insurance obligations, coupled with a solid IT security strategy to handle matters such as access rights and data protection. With this in place, you can grow your workforce with confidence while your data and assets remain secure.