BYOD: the pros and cons for end users and the business

August 2012 

iPadWithout a doubt, ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) is the industry hot topic this summer. IT professionals are wary of it, end users are embracing it and vendors are trying to market it. 

It’s a subject that’s dividing opinion, with the security implications alone causing IT managers to wake up in a cold sweat. Alex Wood, Marketing Manager at Point to Point, reports on this growing trend. 

There is one very obvious and visible benefit of the ‘bring your own device’ phenomenon. Productivity increases. Quite simply, user’s work better and increase productivity while feeling more content with the freedom to use their own devices.

Also, with a greater degree of personal ownership and personal finance involved, employees take the time to maintain their beloved gadgets. From a corporate perspective, there’s the clear cost savings attributed to decreased hardware replacements.

However, the most positive aspect of BYOD is entirely intangible. Fundamentally, BYOD allows employees to interact directly with IT in a positive sense. It reflects a proactive approach from IT departments, working with the end user rather than against them.

Employees want to use the most appropriate device to help them do their job. You’re the marketing manager? OK, use a Macbook. Work in sales? Make the most of your tablet for taking notes in meetings.

When you think about the negatives surrounding BYOD, the issue of security is never far away. Data leakage and the risk of malware are the obvious problem areas that spring to mind.

Additionally, although very few people will deliberately steal corporate data, there’s always the risk of leaving a tablet, laptop, phone etc in the back of a cab! Importantly there is some great mobile device management software around that seriously mitigates the risk of data theft.

One might think this issue is as simple as deciding whether to allow BYOD or not, but unfortunately it’s not as straightforward as that. Organisations need to decide whether to fully embrace the BYOD ethos or restrict it ever so slightly.

For example, are you going to allow Android devices or just Apple? Some organisations suggest that Android’s open format makes it more susceptible to attacks, thus rendering the Google owned platform out of bounds.  

Equally, where do organisations draw the line around the management and maintenance of personally owned devices? Parameters need to be clearly defined. If a device breaks, does IT fix it or is it a case of ‘taking it to PC world’?

Similarly if people have their own devices, there seems to be an increased impetus to work outside traditional hours. As a result of this, employees expect 24/7 support when they can’t log in on a Sunday afternoon.

In addition, there is reluctance from some employees around mixing ‘business and pleasure’. Whilst the majority of workers seem enthusiastic to embrace BYOD, it must be noted that some individuals are happy to just logon to their work device at 9am and log off at 5:30.

In this case, it’s crucial for organisations to consider who should be included in any BYOD pilot. You wouldn’t necessarily want task workers in a call centre working off iPad’s, but you may want your pre-sales team to have that degree of flexibility.

One thing becomes increasingly clear when you ponder the implications of BYOD. Having some type of strategy, even if it’s relatively vague, is essential. Otherwise you’re going to start running into all sorts of issues.

Slightly worryingly, recent research is suggesting that two thirds of organisations don’t have any BYOD strategy in place. Guidelines and expectations need to be set, as well as a degree of accountability.

To achieve this, it’s safe to say that BYOD and mobile device management software need to go hand in hand. MDM needs to be more than a desirable add on, it should be a pre-requisite. Any sane IT professional should have some serious reservations about a company even considering BYOD without any type of mobile management security tool.

When working with clients, vendors and re-sellers need to help manage expectations and formulate a realistic strategy. From the customer’s perspective, it’s crucial to understand whether BYOD is achievable, necessary and scalable.

There are risks around BYOD and IT organisations need to help customers weigh up the pros and cons. BYOD is a change in mentality - not just from the user’s perspective, but also to any organisation’s IT hierarchy.

Ultimately, IT in 2012 is about promoting flexibility. It’s hard to argue with the benefits of BYOD, especially when it emphatically endorses and encapsulates the notion of flexible working.

About the author
Alex Wood is responsible for marketing at Point to Point and has been with the company for two years. Over the last twelve months, Alex has also been managing Point to Point’s customer events which aim to offer an interactive and varied approach to IT seminars and workshops. Alex is a graduate from the Henley Business School at Reading University with a BA Hons in Management and Business Administration.

Comments (9)

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  • 1
    Alistair Skipper wrote on 23rd Aug 2012

    This is a very interesting article, which does not mention one big advantage. Those people, who have disabilities, can now use their own devices. I have Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, which means I have coloured glasses and overlays to assist in unscrambling messages from the eyes to the brain. Approximately 10% all dyslexics suffer from this. For me the simple change from the usual white letters on black keys to black letters on white keys doubles my productivity and cuts down on errors and frustration. Unfortunately most employers are unaware that this simple change has a big affect and one is usually labelled as just being awkward.

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  • 2
    Barry wrote on 23rd Aug 2012

    An interesting thought from Alistair.
    Back in the 1980's HCI knew that 'black on white' was the best for the human eye (goes back to our days swinging in trees - branch against sky when our eye developed)
    Screens/software has generally gone that way.

    Why didn't the keyboard?
    Or are we all supposed to be touch typists?
    These days some keyboards don't have any physical clues like the F and J keys.

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  • 3
    Ian wrote on 23rd Aug 2012

    Hi Alex,

    There is also another BYOD issue that needs consideration. For a device to conform to an organisation’s security and governance policies it is likely that it will be necessary to limit some of the functionality of the device. This is perfectly acceptable when the device is supplied by the organisation to the employee for work purposes but much less so when the user has actually purchased it with their hard earned cash.

    For example the user may wish or insist that they be allowed to utilise cloud services such as Dropbox or iCloud for documents or photographs. As these are services which are hosted and retain data outside the EU, this would be less than acceptable to a number of UK government organisations, unless assurance the appropriate Safe Harbour agreements are in place and can be trusted.

    Other restrictions may include the constant wiping of cache and password stores, the need to remotely wipe the device as soon as the individual reports it missing thereby removing all corporate data but also removing the individual private data at the same time. The danger with this approach is the necessary security restrictions essential from a corporate perspective effectively reduce the functionality of the user device to such an extent that users no longer wishes to participate in BYOD scheme.

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  • 4
    Douglas wrote on 23rd Aug 2012

    Logically, in the BYOD scenario, where the employee owns the hardware, it should be for the employer to agree to submit to the employee's IT policies and in particular to legally contract to maintain the privacy of the employee's data.

    As this is somewhat unlikely, then I for one will not wish to participate in a BYOD scheme any time soon.

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  • 5
    Andrew Phillips wrote on 23rd Aug 2012

    Hi,

    Most keyboards use white on black. Since I am partially sighted and use JAWS software. I also have (from the RNIB) stick on characters which are larger than the normal keyboard size and are black with a yellow background. The RNIB also have "bump-ons" which are different size and shaped stick on items which can be used to indicate keys frequently used (e.g. home keys, return key, space key etc.).

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  • 6
    Nitin Kanade wrote on 24th Aug 2012

    As we all knowo BYOD is an unstoppable phenomena and the seeds sown so far will soon become giant trees all over. Apart from the flexibility that people with diabilities would receive as mentioned by Alistair, I feel that this is a perfect opportunity for both IT and users to work together in a give and take / collaborative manner. IT sets effective policies from data security, application access, network availability (this is a big topic in itself) and compliance perspective, thereby putting guidelines to use certian mobile devices and employees reciproacting for a mutual concurrence. SOme companies have beneffited with this approach. Its just a matter of the CIO / IT Director to get all together on teh same platform.

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  • 7
    Geof wrote on 28th Aug 2012

    BYOD - a fascinating subject.
    Has anyone investigated the possibility of permitting BYOD but only on the condition that a company template is downloaded at the beginning of the day and retracted after the day's work is done? I can see without help that this could cause a couple of hundred obvious problems which I shall leave to the reader to identify, detail and discuss but - has it even been considered? Renewing the operating system and available utilities and systems on each and every network station was practiced by some organisations quite a few years back but it died, probably for good reasons.
    Any thoughts?

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  • 8
    Helena Moreira wrote on 28th Aug 2012

    I do agree the BYOD approach allows a lot of flexibility and device customisation to every particular employee. However, devices acquisition, update and maintenance imply costs which should be taken into consideration by the company.

    Corporate data should be available to those who are supposed to have access to it. The Cloud is a solution for data backup, but security issues have been risen at least by an expert on the subject.

    Should backups of corporate data be kept in servers belonging to the company and managed by the company?

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  • 9
    Rick Chandler wrote on 21st May 2013

    I am a consultant in Mobile Security and have been presenting on MDM and BYOD for several years. The productivity benefits quoted are true whether the employee or the company supplies the device. It is more than enough to pay for a company device for every employee leaving their own devices unencumbered with MDM software. Such software only copes with 80% of the risks at best and leaves the user vulnerable to tracking and targeting. The extra management overhead for BYOD has been rated at over $320 a year per user (Gartner and others)
    The forthcoming EU Data Protection Regulation will include all the tracked information from Mobile devices and 24hrs will be mandatory for disclosure of a breach. (penalty 2% of Global revenue). Is BYOD worth the risk? Ask the Board not the CIO!

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