Not long ago, bring your own device (BYOD) was the trend to watch among enterprises. Companies of all shapes and sizes looked at BYOD as the next big thing in business, a way to make employees more productive and satisfied with their jobs. For a while, the trend was rocketing upwards as more and more businesses got on board. While surveys vary on the exact numbers, roughly 60% of companies have some form of a BYOD policy currently in place. But as often happens with trends, the more businesses adopted policies, the more potential drawbacks were discovered. Now, some experts are even saying BYOD has reached a plateau. The stalling nature of the BYOD trend is perhaps best seen in Europe, where the number of companies with no plans of implementing BYOD (around 40%) has remained fairly consistent. So that begs the question: Is BYOD losing its momentum? A thorough investigation reveals reasons for concern but also grounds for optimism in the future.
There are, of course, plenty of reasons for businesses to make BYOD adoption a priority adoption a priority, but the challenges associated with such a big change can cause problems for any organization with vague plans or limited resources. One of the biggest challenges companies face is that of security. With so many devices owned and operated by employees, the potential for security issues greatly increases. Just in the past two years there has been an explosion in the amount of malware being developed for Android devices. In half of 2013 alone, more than 700,000 malicious apps were created for that mobile platform, a major increase from the previous year. If malware wasn’t dangerous enough, companies also have to worry about employees’ devices getting lost or stolen, which can end up exposing sensitive company data. Workers may also use their devices for unauthorized activities, once again putting important information at risk. Many businesses may look at these increased risks and determine that a BYOD policy simply isn’t worth it.
Another major issue is how to pay for BYOD. While at first the BYOD trend promised to save companies money, in most cases there was either little change in expenses or actually an increase in costs. Employees were happy to use their own devices but didn’t like the idea of paying for added data plans and security measures that were forced onto their smartphones and tablets. That left companies with a dilemma in paying for BYOD expenses. Some responded with monthly stipends while others looked to regular reimbursement reports. Another possibility that has gained some support recently is with sponsored data programs, where other companies would pay for part of the data charge, much like a sponsorship. Whatever choice businesses decide to go with, BYOD payments is just one more complication that may prevent companies from fully embracing the trend.
The IT department likely also has a say in BYOD, and with so much on their plate already, many IT workers have said BYOD would only place added strain on them. There’s been an influx of new devices into the market, and keeping track of all of them, making them compatible with the network, and outfitting them with the latest security features can become an immense workload. With more to do, companies have needed to hire more IT workers just to keep up with the demand. One report shows nearly 3 full-time IT workers were needed for every thousand mobile devices in 2011. That number increased to 4 just two years later, during which IT budgets have become tighter than ever. Companies looking to save money may see BYOD as an expense best avoided.
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But all is not grim news for BYOD. Companies are adapting to these realities surrounding the practice. They’re proving to be more agile and flexible in meeting these added demands. Recent research shows more than half of all businesses say they’re able to keep up with or even stay ahead of the latest mobile device technology. Only 43% said so two years before that. The same research shows only 40% of companies say they’re struggling to keep up with new mobile technology, which is down from 52%. Companies are also discovering what the best practices with BYOD are and the importance of having a clearly defined, clearly communicated policy that all employees understand. With these plans in place, the negative effects of security challenges and BYOD expenses will be minimized.
To answer the original question, it appears BYOD growth has slowed somewhat, but it should be looked at as more of an adjustment period rather than a full loss of momentum. At present, it appears that almost nothing can actually stop BYOD’s spread. Gartner is already predicting a doubling and tripling of the mobile workforce size through 2018. Companies can expect to see more and more employees bringing their own personal devices in the workplace, even if a BYOD policy isn’t set up. The wise thing to do would be to establish a policy early on to address the challenges and complexities of BYOD before any problems are encountered.