BYOD: Opportunities, challenges and how to tackle them

BYOD: Opportunities, challenges and how to tackle them

With more than 15 million Australians now owning a smartphone and some 12 million owning a tablet, it’s impossible to avoid the presence of mobile devices in the workplace (whether you officially allow them or not).

The rapid increase of mobile devices at work comes as no surprise as the way we work has changed and continues to evolve.

There's already a strong chance your employees are using their own device at work — a US survey found that 37% of employees tap into their workplace systems from their own devices even without formal permission. Most medium to large enterprises are already facing challenges with this.

Despite its challenges there are incredible positives that come from implementing BYOD policies. For instance, a global CIO survey found that 38% of companies in the US will stop supplying staff with a company device and move to solely BYOD by 2017 — saving companies millions in technology outlays.

Australia is no exception to the growth of BYOD in the workplace. As with most rapid changes, this presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges. CeBIT has summarised the 7 key opportunities and challenges CIOs and their supporting human resources, legal and IT need to address.

Opportunities of BYOD in the workplace

  • Cost reduction. As employees are more willing to spend their own money on the latest and greatest device your company doesn’t have to, saving you the draining cost of expensive hardware.

  • Up to date technology. Employees can be more efficient as the speed of new technology will likely beat out-dated company issued devices. This also means less support staff are required to maintain the equipment.

  • Workplace satisfaction and productivity. Employees feel more satisfied using their own device, which in turn increases productivity. Companies can gain an additional $1,300USD annually per mobile user if they manage to implement a comprehensive BYOD plan, according to a CISCO Financial Impact of BYOD study.

  • New mobile workforce opportunities. Staff being able to access company data away from the office presents many new opportunities such as flexible working conditions, the ability to access information quickly and increased staff driven innovation.

Challenges of BYOD in the workplace

  • Security. Security is a paramount concern for all companies as sensitive company data could be easily leaked if a device is lost or stolen. Can you tell the employee to wipe their entire phone? Security is also risked by the employee installing apps on their phone, seemingly innocent applications can cause significant headaches.

  • Fair usage. Eliminating company supplied hardware reduces your control of usage of the device. Most companies have an acceptable use policy, it’s a lot harder – but not impossible – to implement one on a device supplied by the employee. What’s acceptable usage on an employee’s personal device may not be acceptable usage during work time, especially when it comes to gaming and social media applications.

  • Compliance and ownership
    The challenge here is if the company data is on the employee’s phone, who owns it? And is having this data on an individual's personal device breaking any privacy laws in the country you’re regulated by?

It’s clear a collaborative approach throughout the entire company is needed to manage the challenges of a BYOD workplace agreement.

Solutions to make BYOD work in your workplace

  • Develop a solid and stringent mobile device management (MDM) policy
    The policy needs to be developed in collaboration between the CIO, IT team, HR, legal and senior management.

    Many critical factors must be considered here including:
    • Determining what devices are permitted.
    • Explaining what information your company has access to and why you’re collecting it (privacy laws don’t allow companies to geolocate personal devices, keep track of call history or text message data etc.)
    • How you manage the security and encryption of the company’s data.
    • How the corporate data should be stored on the personal device.
    • How the data is transferred from personal to corporate servers.
    • Deciding if an antivirus needs to be installed.
    • What is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour.
    • What company data employees can access via their device.
    • What to do when a software update comes out.
    • What happens if the employee loses/has their their device stolen.
    • The consequences of the employee disregarding the BYOD/MDM policy.
    • What happens if the employee leaves the company.
           This policy is paramount to the success of any BYOD arrangement in the workplace. 
  • Invest in a cloud-based program to manage the devices.
    There is a myriad of software out there to help manage BYOD. IBM’s Maas360 is an application used to monitor employee’s devices and keep company data in-check. IBM has Maas360 installed on more than 120,000 employee’s personal devices company-wide.

  • Education

The implementation of any new policy and procedure can be testing, and feedback from employees is critical to making any policy work. However a BYOD policy in the workplace is necessary to keep company data secure and safe, as security issues are often the reputational break-point of many companies.

CeBIT Australia CIO Summary Report