In 1999, I managed to convince my beautiful young wife that I needed a a Palm III to help manage my time at work.
All I had from my work was a small three-line pager (remember those?) and a cell phone. Having brought the device in to work, I tried my best to make it integrate with my work laptop and other systems. I had zero luck. Of course, working in a tech company, I was expected to help myself or not bother. I ended up not bothering.
Skip forward to 2006, and I’m working as a manger for a large urban County department. I have a Blackberry with integrated email, phone and calendaring. We use Microsoft Exchange in the backend so the Blackberry is a great tool. I use it for many things, with the exception of my personal email and phone calls. For those, I have a separate phone and multiple seperate email accounts. I had asked repeatedly to allow my phone to access the corporate network but it was never blessed.
As of a few weeks back, I’ve managed to integrate my corporate email, scheduling and phone number onto the same device I use for personal email and phones. I still keep them separate but at least I don’t have to walk around with two devices during the day.
For the past week, the Blackberry has been sitting at home, charging, while my Android-based Samsung Galaxy SII has taken over the heavy-lifting. I have found that I’m able to send and receive emails, calendar invites, phone calls and tasks on the same device. While not new to me, the adoption rate for Bringing Your Own Device (BYOD) to work has been increasing rapidly and in a short time. BYOD as a term has only been around for a few years.
In a recent ZDNet Article, the main case for BYOD is productivity. They argue – and I believe correctly – that costs should not be a factor. The cost per corporate device is actually rather small, when compared to the costs of an employee’s salary, benefits and office space. In fact, many articles point to cost as a prohibitive factor in allowing for BYOD. However, the productivity and morale gained by allowing a staff member to bring in a personal device is great. Since employees with their own devices are more apt to pay attention when using a personal device, more work can be completed. Even after-hours work can be easier to justify to an employee using his or her own device. This won’t be true for everyone, of course, but I find many knowledge workers enjoy the freedom and ability to stay in touch when using a personal device. The trust factor in an organization has to be fairly high to ensure both the employees and management are not apt to abuse the situation.
Security is – of course – the 800-lb. gorilla lurking in the corner. If employees are allowed to bring their own smartphones, tablets and even laptops into work does this compromise the well-built security of the enterprise? Sometimes, the answer is yes. Companies which allow for BYOD need to be very careful about the ability for outside devices to bring in malicious code and/or files into the workplace. The standard perimeter-based controls no longer apply when employees have outside devices connecting to the corporate network. In adittion, many BYOD systems are not secure. It would be wise to require anyone using a device with access to corporate data to encrypt the device and use a strong passphrase.
Another concern is the division of personal and corporate work. For some this is a non-issue. For others, however, there can be serious legal and moral consequences of mixing business and personal emails and calendars. I’ve seen at least one company already built around the concept of BYOD and allowing employees to separate work and personal spaces on the same device.
Finally, of course, is the support issue. Tech support staff are usually overworked and continually being challenged with an ever-changing tech landscape. Now, they may be required to contend with non-standard devices and the extra support requirements for connectivity.
As a technology manager, I like to be connected during most hours. Having to carry two devices was always frustrating. One extra device to worry about, potentially lose and charge. Now, I have one device that handles most of my connectivity tasks. Please let me know what you think. Given that BYOD is probably here to stay, what can you see as pitfalls or benefits?