BYOD: Bring Your Own Disaster

BYOD is an acronym that is common in the technology industry.  This term has bled over to the business world.  You may be a user of the acronym even if you’re not certain of the word’s meaning.  Do you use your personal mobile phone for work?  Are you reimbursed for a portion of your mobile bill?  Do you wish you were reimbursed?  That’s a conversation we cannot solve in this column.  If you answered yes, then you are a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) user.  A recent Gartner report predicts that 50% of the workforce will be required to supply their own device for business purposes.  A Forrester study shows 77% of executives bring their own hardware and 45% bring their own software.  These percentages are staggering!  Now, I’ve been in the professional workforce for nearly twenty years and I think back to my first job out of college.  I had a big computer terminal and worked on company financial statements, which were printed on green bar paper.  I almost feel compelled to insert a link to a green bar print out image for those under 21.  The thought of using my personal laptop and mobile device for work was unheard of years ago.  It is common for new hires to furnish their own technology for business.

For the business, there is a perceived financial savings of an employee using their own mobile device.  For the employee, there is the benefit of a single mobile device.  You know who you are.  You’re the one walking around with a company issued Blackberry and personal iPhone.  An important benefit for the employee is that they get to choose the device they’ll use for work.  This is where the lines get blurred.  A happy employee should be a productive employee.  The business is happy because they are reducing an expense of purchasing a phone for the employee, and they’ll offer a set reimbursement amount.  The unfortunate issue of this BYOD practice is the soft expenses unrealized by these businesses, such as:

IT DEPARTMENT SUPPORT:  It is possible that the IT Manager for these businesses is asked to support multiple manufacturers and software versions (i.e. Apple, Android, and Windows) rather than a minimal platform.  They are also spending time configuring devices to communicate with corporate email and software.  Think you’re saving money yet?  IT Managers are not cheap!  The more time they spend on a non-business provided phone, the less time they spend on a business project.

PROPRIETARY INFORMATION:  Would you allow your employee to take their company desktop computer, plug it in at the Bull & Bush and party it up on a Friday night?  Of course not!  Besides, who would take a desktop to a brewery?  It happens every weekend, though.  If you’re a business owner, take a look around the next time you’re out for dinner or having an adult beverage and realize nearly every individual has proprietary corporate information stored on their mobile phone, which is probably resting in beer condensation.  You didn’t provide their phone to reduce expenses, yet your company information is out on a Friday night.  Are you prepared for the repercussions when this phone is reported lost on Monday?

LEGALLY LIABLE: Take the case in 2003, which a stock broker was on a personal phone, in his personal car, on his personal time, but was making cold calls for business.  He struck and killed a cyclist, which resulted in a settlement from his employer to the cyclist’s family.  His company did not have a mobile use policy in place, because they believed they were safe by reimbursing employees rather than providing mobile devices.

WAGE ISSUE: Over 200 Chicago police officers sued the city claiming they felt pressured into answering calls and emails during personal time.  The 9-5 workday doesn’t exist like the days from Dolly Parton’s song.  This discussion must happen during new employee orientation.  If there are not bookends on a work day, then it should be stated in the handbook, as well as the mobile policy.

The number one reason businesses to embrace BYOD should be PRODUCTIVITY not financial.  Business owners should want their workers connected to their office even if they are not at the office physically.  Technology accomplishes this goal.  Yes, there are concerns for an employee to use a corporate provided phone.  The most immediate concern is the type of phone.  You like Android, but your company is requiring Apple.  There is a concern about personal and company information on the device.  The tracking capabilities of mobile phones can make your employer feel like big brother.

There is a happy medium for businesses and employees.  Businesses need to decide if they want to pay for the employee’s device and bill or allow the employee to bring their own device and offer a reimbursement.  Regardless of the option, and you need to do one or the other to bring in quality talent, businesses need to do a few things to protect themselves.  The key thing is to develop a mobility policy.  A mobility strategy should be part of any technology discussion.  Here’s the happy medium I mentioned earlier, with a strong policy and defined strategy, businesses can allow employees to bring their own device.  Businesses should note, which phones are acceptable for business use, and research mobile software that can reduce loss of proprietary information in the event of an employee termination or lost device.

Mobile phones are an important tool in the workplace.  Businesses are inviting disaster by stroking a check each month for mobile reimbursement to their employees without a policy.  Employees should embrace a policy because it is imperative to know what information can and cannot be shared with your employer.

On a much lighter note, Baby App #2 will arrive in March.  There are a few apps that we’ll plan to check out over the next few months:  Eat Sleep Tracker, Ready Set Baby, Sound Sleeper and Babybook.  It gets easier, right?  For those that are still writing on legal pads and writing books, try Penultimate.  It is a writing pad for your mobile device that integrates with Evernote easily.  And, for those that enjoy fixing up their photos, check out Adobe Photoshop Express.  Do I have you thinking about using your phone for work yet?

Do you have a mobile policy, strategy or issue to share?  Contact Brian at brian.zabroski@vxsuite.com, on Twitter @BrianZab or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/brianzab.

Brian has focused on helping technology companies grow their businesses for over fifteen years.  He currently serves as the Director of Channel Management for LVM, Inc, a cloud-based software business, which specializes in network monitoring, phone system usage analytics and mobile device analytics.  Simply put, if your business’ network, phone system and corporate cell phones are slow, have issues and are expensive, VXSuite reduces and eliminates these challenges.  VXSuite is resold through an international channel of technology partners.  He travels across North America educating technology companies how they can increase their business value nearly five-fold through his hybrid managed service selling technique.

Brian Zabroski (4 Blog Posts)