From what you hear from all the latest technology news, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the end-all, be-all of technology policies, guaranteed to make businesses run smoother, employees feel happier, and cash pile up like never before. BYOD can certainly be helpful, but it’s far from the solution to all of a business’s problems, mainly because there are many pitfalls companies can easily fall into. These mistakes are easy for anyone to make, which is why knowing them before implementing a BYOD policy is essential if you want to see success.
One of the main draws of Bring Your Own Device is the potential to cut costs. The basic idea is that if employees use their own devices, they’ll have to deal with the cost of upkeep and upgrading while the company won’t have to purchase items of their own. So it might surprise you to find out that a poorly structured BYOD program may end up costing a company more than they save. Think of it this way: if a company picks up the tab for a monthly smartphone bill, the end result may be the company paying for expensive data plans the employee never would have gotten had he or she been in charge of all expenses. Plus there’s always the risk an employee could use the phone for overseas calls, again costing the company some money better spent elsewhere.
BYOD policies may also lead to less productivity among the workforce. Yes, the goal is that BYOD programs will make employees more productive since they’ll be familiar with what their own devices can and can’t do, but think about all the ways an employee can become distracted. Whether they’re checking the latest updates on Facebook or spending their time knocking out pigs on Angry Birds, every minute spent playing a game or checking social media is a minute where no actual work is getting done. Less productivity means less money for the company.
For all the advantages and disadvantages of BYOD programs, perhaps the most serious drawback is the added security risks. Let’s face it--even when dealing with their own expensive devices, people can get pretty careless and lose them. In most cases, it might mean losing some contact information, but in the case of misplacing a smartphone or tablet with valuable company data on it, the consequences can be severe. There are ways around this issue, like full device swipes, but that’s only effective if employees immediately alert IT personnel about the issue. Many don’t do that right away, making the risk of losing vital data that much greater. BYOD also introduces a number of other security risks such as viruses and malware that can steal data and new avenues like text messaging where employees can share company information with little chance for detection.
BYOD might be useful, but it could end up creating conflicts between employees and management. Take the earlier example of workers spending too much time on distracting apps while on their own devices. While management might respond to this problem by blocking those apps deemed to be a waste of time or segregating the work part of the device from the personal part, some people don’t respond well to being told how to operate stuff they already own. Since it’s their property, they may feel added rules are unnecessary, and they may argue against it. Needless to say, the stricter the BYOD policy, the less risk of data and productivity loss, but that also costs workers the freedom they thought they would have under the program. Employees also have to be willing to trust management with their personal info, which might be a stretch for some people.
These pitfalls might seem like surefire reasons to stay as far away from BYOD as possible, but that doesn’t mean a thoughtful, clearly communicated BYOD program can’t greatly benefit a company. The important thing for every business leader to do before implementing BYOD is to know the risks involved and to develop strategies for dealing with these realities. A good plan can help minimize risk and magnify the upside of BYOD.