The pros and cons of bring your own device

Your employees see choice and flexibility as a baseline expectation. Your CEO worries about security. Use this a cheat sheet to explain the benefits and trade-offs

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Employees have an array of gadgets, from iPhones and iPads to Androids and BlackBerrys. And they aren’t leaving them at home — they are bringing them to work. 

According to a recent survey by market intelligence firm IDC Canada, two-thirds of Canadian employees are mobile in their work in some capacity. And this group is growing: IDC anticipates that three-quarters of our country’s workers will be bringing their own devices to work by 2015.

The proliferation of web-enabled mobile devices puts pressure on corporations to allow employees to use their personal devices within the corporate IT structure and access data on them both at work and outside of the office.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is one of the biggest challenges facing IT professionals today – and possibly one of the biggest opportunities.

On the positive side, BYOD: 

  • Reduces costs, especially capital expenses and operating expenses, as those shift to the employees who brings their own devices to work.
  • Increases job satisfaction. Employees are more comfortable with their own devices, which increases productivity and improves business communication. It also offers employees a more flexible work environment.

On the negative side, BYOD: 

  • Opens up security, compliance and liability concerns, as corporate data is being accessed on devices outside of the IT department’s ownership and control.
  • Brings devices onto your network that contain consumer applications with powerful privileges and (especially with Android) sometimes suspect origins.
  • Complicates the IT department’s job, as you must become the expert on all of the various mobile platforms, from IOS to Android and beyond, that will now be accessing your network.

Mobile Workforce Solutions

Only 22% of companies have a formal mobility policy, according to a Computing Technology Industry Association report. That’s a big mistake. If your company is thinking of implementing a BYOD strategy, is a great source for background information. Check out a white paper by MobileIron and a thought leadership interview with Gary Audin of Delphi, Incorporated and Rob Butters of Avaya.

The white paper does an excellent job of clearly and succinctly breaking down the eight major components of a successful BYOD strategy implementation.  It covers topics ranging from sustainability to liability, addressing  user experience, privacy, economics, internal marketing and more.

As the white paper points out, BYOD policies must meet the needs of both IT and employees for:

  • Securing corporate data;
  • Minimizing the costs of implementation and enforcement;
  • Preserving the native user experience; and
  • Staying up to date with user preferences and technology innovations.

The white paper argues that the most important points are the last two – if your users aren’t happy, then they’ll find ways around your policies and compromise your systems, which means your BYOD strategy will fail.

What is the key to a successful BYOD strategy?

  • New devices are unveiled and operating system updates happen every month, so being overly restrictive about what devices people can use and the apps they access will lead to immediate challenges.
  • Make sure your vendors embrace mobile as part of their DNA.

The thought leadership discussion helps take the abstract concepts and put them in a real-world experience. Gary Audin and Rub Butters – both seasoned IT professionals – offer their own insights into the trials and tribulations that they faced when implementing their own BYOD strategies.

Their advice includes:

  • Remember who your users are and adjust your policies accordingly. Think about how they will use their devices – for good and for bad (i.e., an engineering school’s students are way more likely to try and hack the system than a group of bank employees – and may be more likely to download questionable content that could affect your liability).
  • Involve department managers when developing policies so you can reflect on how their departments actually work. (For example, what information and systems need to be accessible on mobile? How much hotelling will they require for guests/clients?)
  • Be open to change and pay attention to trends – no one predicted how mobile would take over and no one knows what’s coming next!

Online IT Resources

The white paper and thought leadership discussion are available on, which is a comprehensive resource for IT professionals. If you look past the slightly amateurish graphics on the home page and take a minute to register (for free), you’ll find yourself enjoying a useful mix of white papers written by IT managers and consultants for medium- and large-sized firms; research reports covering a variety of current trends and issues; and a section called ‘Thought Leadership’, which features interviews and discussions with leading IT professionals. The site covers topics from a number of angles, providing a mix of technical information and practical advice that comes from real-world experience.

While the entire forum is a source of great information, the Thought Leadership section is the most useful and interesting. It offers the firsthand perspective and real life know-how of industry leaders who share the good, the bad and the ugly of IT solutions, and their successes and failures when implementing them. So why not learn from their mistakes before you dive in and make one yourself?

Learn more about how to cope with BYOD by reading ‘The Consumerization of IT,’ by Frost & Sullivan.

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