Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) refers to the trend of employees wanting to use their own smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in the workplace. With the consumer mobile market exploding, analysts say organisations of all sizes must develop BYOD strategies or risk employee dissatisfaction and security vulnerabilities.
What is driving BYOD?
The BYOD trend "stems from innovation in the consumer mobile space, driven by Apple and Google, outstripping that in the enterprise market," says Ovum analyst Richard Absalom.
"The services that consumers own are more powerful and offer more capabilities than those supplied by their employees."
More smartphones and tablets are sold to consumers every year. In the first half of 2012, IDC saw a 10 per cent year-on-year shipment increase for smartphones and a 119 per cent increase for tablets, says IDC analyst Siow-Meng Soh. "BYOD is driven more strongly by the younger Gen-Y workers who are savvy with the use of devices and consumer applications."
"The biggest driver is employee demand," says Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda. "For many people, using their personal device for work is natural."
Employees want to use a single device rather than one for work and one for home, says Absalom, citing results of a soon-to-be-published global study by Ovum. If employers don't provide a device, employees want to use their own, he says. People believe they will be more productive with access to email and other business apps outside of working hours, he says.
What are the business benefits of BYOD?
"IT can sell real value in allowing people to use their personal devices since mobility increases productivity and the company knows that it is not going to buy everyone a corporate device," says Gartner analyst Song Chuang. Also, with devices affordable and consumers eager to upgrade, BYOD enables organisations to better keep up with technological advancements, he says.
"Business calls and access to corporate email are by far the most common activities of those doing BYOD," says Absalom, who cites increased productivity as a key benefit of BYOD.
"Businesses can make the most of the trend by giving employees access to a line of business apps that let them go beyond simple access to email and let them do their jobs better while on the move."
Analysts say BYOD also increases job satisfaction, helping to attract and retain staff. "Gartner clients commonly report that the perception of IT improves substantially among users who opt into the BYOD program," says Chuang.
It's also a matter of bracing for the future, says Gedda. "Adopting a BYOD strategy will help prepare organisations for the inevitable onslaught of consumer devices in the workplace and also better prepare IT departments for managing the increasing amount of data on mobile devices--be they company-issued or personal."
Will BYOD save money?
"BYOD programs can reduce cost, but they typically do not," says Chuang.
"From the CIO's perspective, not having to purchase devices for staff can reduce expenditure," says Gedda, "but they also have to make sure BYOD doesn't have the negative effect of increasing support time and hence costs."
There are "potential savings on hardware, as you are shifting the burden of shortened device renewal cycles on to the employee," says Absalom.
However, "there are multiple extra costs to consider," he says.
Companies may give employees a stipend to buy devices, and reimbursing multiple individual voice and data charges is more expensive than paying for a corporate plan, he says.
Also, the organisation will likely need a third-party management service and "extra man-hours and expertise required at the service desk to manage" different devices and operating systems, he says.
Organisations may find they get more for their money with BYOD, says Chuang.
"Offloading the management of nonstrategic devices from IT [allows] limited fixed-cost resources to be applied elsewhere," Chuang says. Also, employees may be more likely to work outside the office, he adds. "It is very compelling for IT when they consider that eight hours extra work each week is a solid chunk of salary in dollar terms!"
What are the risks?
"Security remains the top challenge since mobile devices are generally not secure," says Soh.
"Personally owned devices present risks to the network in the form of unintended denial of service and other threats to network stability, such as the spread of malware," Chuang says.
"If not managed properly, there is a high risk of data loss," says Absalom. "If there are no controls or policies in place, the IT department can have no view over what data is being accessed and by whom. Devices with corporate data on them could be lost or stolen, or hacked if not encrypted, and the business would have no idea it even happened."
With people frequently trading up for new devices, "leaving data on old devices can add to this risk," adds Gedda.
Security policies for BYOD could raise privacy concerns, notes Absalom: "Organisations must have fully informed and explicity consent from an individual to monitor or access any personal data ... The best way to get around this is through a corporate policy, part of the employment contract, that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both employer and employee."
Beyond security, organisations must ensure corporate apps work across all devices and there is adequate support. Gedda asks, "If a tablet or notebook experience a fault, will the worker be able to continue working productively, or will there be a few days or weeks of disruption while the issue is resolved?"
What are the dangers of not adopting a BYOD strategy?
"Organisations failing to adopt a BYOD strategy risk reducing staff morale and productivity," says Gedda. "The demand for BYOD is high and people are generally more productive with the devices they are used to and most comfortable with."
Businesses who do not adopt a BYOD policy "risk making the wrong long-term investments" and missing "emerging customer or employee needs that are to become commonplace," says Chuang.
BYOD is a trend that can't be stopped, says Soh. "Even if BYOD is strictly prohibited, there is a possibility users will inevitably find a backdoor and their own way through the IT systems."
"People are bringing their own device to work whether their employer knows about it or indeed allows it or not," adds Absalom, "so it simply needs to be managed."