I read a post on the IBM Midsize Insider blog that has remained with me (URL provided below). The post referenced research conducted by Gartner indicating that by 2017, “Half of employers may impose a mandatory BYOD policy and require all employees to provide their own equipment, including laptops, tablets, and smartphones.”
Due to the widespread popularity of iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets, the phrase “Bring Your Own Device” to work has become a curse to IT Departments everywhere. Individuals who are responsible for network infrastructure are increasingly spending their time on employees’ personal devices in order to facilitate employee productivity. This is clearly not the best use of IT professionals’ time or resources. So, why would a company impose a mandatory BYOD policy?
Consider these scenarios:
- A member of your sales team visits a prospect in the field and his/her laptop dies or malfunctions during a presentation. The salesperson looks unprofessional because family photos appear as the desktop screen on the salesperson’s personal laptop. Question: Does the salesperson take the laptop back to the store where he/she bought it, or does your IT Department drop everything to remotely attempt to fix the problem?
- A member of your marketing team attends a tradeshow and uses his/her smartphone with a business card application to capture leads, but the smartphone malfunctions or the app doesn’t work, and all leads appear to be lost. Question: If your marketing manager contacts your IT Department, will the IT team know how to retrieve the leads since the smartphone is not company-issued? The IT Department did not purchase or load the software, and in addition, may not be familiar with the smartphone model, so will they be able to walk the marketing manager through the retrieval process, or are all the leads gone for good?
- A member of your leadership team walks into the conference room to give a presentation to the key leaders of your company. The presentation is stored on the person’s tablet. But something goes miserably wrong, and the tablet doesn’t work correctly. Question: Does the leader call someone in your IT Department to come to the conference room to work on a tablet for the very first time? Top leaders don’t have time to waste sitting in the conference room while someone works on a device that they’ve never worked on before.
While BYOD may seem like a cost-effective solution, it simply cannot become a mandatory policy. Companies pay for desks, lights, copy machines, printers, etc., so when did technology disappear from that list? Just because some employees may think it’s easier to use their own smartphones, tablets, or laptops for email, document creation, Internet research, etc., doesn’t mean that companies should stop paying for equipment and requiring employees to use their own.
With the scenarios described above, IT Department personnel would be at a serious disadvantage in trying to resolve the issues. But if the equipment were company-issued, they would be much better prepared to resolve whatever technical glitches occurred because they would be trained on and familiar with the physical equipment, the network settings, the security settings, etc.
The bottom line is this: Do you want your employees to be prepared to do their jobs? BYOD will definitely interfere with their ability to do their jobs efficiently and correctly. And while there are many security issues of BYOD, one is most important. When employees use their personal devices for work, they don’t always install malware protection on them. With both iOS and Android devices becoming increasing targets of viruses, worms, etc., a new attack vector has been opened to the enterprise. If not addressed properly, these viruses can make the leap from personal email to corporate email – and infect the network. BYOD may seem like a cost-saving solution, but in reality, it’s putting your data at risk, which is priceless.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.