BYOD policies can often make up the cornerstone of an enterprise’s mobility strategy—what better way to quickly give employees remote capabilities than letting them use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops outside of work. On the surface, it seems like a win-win strategy, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?
What are the implications of adopting a BYOD approach for business, and does it work for every company? Let’s explore that question in more depth below.
What is BYOD?
First, let’s define BYOD.
BYOD, or “bring your own device,” describes the use of personal devices to perform work-related tasks on and off work premises. Derived from the term BYOB, which stands for “bring your own beer/booze/bottle,” BYOD stands on much the same principles, promoting self-sufficiency, choice, and flexibility.
BYOD saves enterprises the cost of procuring and deploying equipment for new employees in the short term. Companies also save on costs associated with frequently updating expensive equipment for their workforce since today’s consumers are more likely to routinely upgrade their personal devices.
Given the immense upfront benefits to BYOD, it’s no surprise that the trend seems to be taking hold in the United States. According to a 2018 report released by Research and Markets, “BYOD & enterprise mobility market is projected to grow at a [compound annual growth rate] of more than 17% by 2023.”
It’s not just small and medium businesses adopting BYOD strategies out of necessity. Employees themselves seem to BYOD by default, bringing their personal devices to work and inevitably using them for work-related tasks. CBS MoneyWatch recently reported that 67% of workers already use their own devices for work.
Advantages of BYOD
With many workers and enterprises implementing BYOD programs, it goes without saying that it has many advantages. Here are some of them:
BYOD programs can save companies money. According to the 2016 Cisco Annual Report, companies who let workers bring their own devices save about $350 on average per employee every year.
Companies also report increases in productivity as a result of employees using their own devices. The increase in productivity comes from employees being more likely to complete training and perform tasks more quickly on personal devices that are more familiar to them.
Another advantage of BYOD is the balance to personal and professional lives that comes from using a single device for both business and work. Workers who don’t feel a disconnect between their home and work lives often report greater job satisfaction.
There’s also the boost in employee morale that comes from allowing personal devices at work and even integrating them into the work process. This factor is especially important to millennials and under who have grown up with smartphones and consider them an integral part of their identities.
Disadvantages of BYOD
BYOD often seems quite easy to implement, but the costs of doing so may be too steep to ignore.
The most obvious disadvantage of BYOD is the increased security risk it poses to organizations. According to the Ponemonn Institute, 56% of companies say the biggest threat to their endpoint security is the number of personal devices connected to their network.
Managing security across different devices and operating systems is tedious and expensive. Moreover, scheduling security updates can also be more complicated when IT has limited jurisdiction over when and how those updates are implemented.
This patchwork of security approaches, combined with the nature of personal device usage where users are free to browse whatever website they choose whether risky or not, leaves companies more exposed to cyber threats and attacks.
BYOD is also enormously burdensome on IT departments who often have to deal with a plethora of devices and operating systems. Even with a BYOD program that limits device options, navigating a multitude of devices creates overwhelming challenges when developing mobile or mobile-friendly apps for work or managing enterprise-wide IT requests.
Dictating and managing usage policies on devices that are personally owned but used for business purposes also poses significant constraints.
Managing a BYOD program is complicated from an IT point of view, but IT is not the only department that bears the brunt of an unwieldy BYOD landscape. The legal department often gets saddled with regulatory and compliance issues while the finance department struggles to keep up with employee reimbursement.
In general, the more different devices operating within the company’s ecosystem, the more difficult it is to maintain cohesion across the board.
Even if you breeze through employee reimbursement for BYOD usage and develop clear policies to limit the variety of devices employees can use—in other words, you’ve get BYOD figured out—what happens when a device gets lost or stolen? Or when an employee leaves the company? You’re likely to lose or expose sensitive company data in both of those scenarios, whereas you’d have the authority to remotely wipe the devices clean and mitigate the risk of data loss if you’d issued the devices.
Mobile apps are here to stay; employees use them to increase their productivity or enhance their customer service delivery.
If you think that a BYOD strategy would make sense for your business, you should spend some time building a framework for what that strategy would look like and how much of your business would run on corporate-issued versus BYO devices.
When building your BYOD strategy, consider questions relating to “employee eligibility, questions of funding, device selection (tailored tech for different roles/tasks), support models, records management, training and support, employee privacy, audit requirements, data usage limits and backup, IT strategy, termination policy and other byzantine legal considerations.” (Forbes)
Alternatively, consider issuing corporate-owned devices and managing them through an MDM platform like Sentinel, which gives you complete visibility into all your devices in the field and lets you control how much data you allocate to each device.
Another strategy would be to implement a COPE program instead. Corporate-owned, personally-enabled devices offer some of the flexibility of BYOD but limit your exposure to many of the risks involved.
Think critically about what employees you want covered by BYOD and who should be issued corporate devices based on how your business works and what would make the most sense for you. Rather than focus on immediate cost savings, think longer term. Coming up with the best approach for your business will pay dividends now and in the future.