Over the past few years it seems that the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomenon has taken businesses by storm, and on the face of it you can see why.
Employees pay for their own devices, which means that businesses avoid the majority of the associated upfront costs. Workers are often happy to do this, as it means they can bring their favourite gadget to work and not be forced into using a corporate one they might be unfamiliar with. These employees already know the ins-and-outs of their devices and, as a result, are often much more productive when working on them. However, due to security and practical resource concerns, not all companies have adopted the BYOD approach with gusto.
Another trend is now emerging. A choose your own device (CYOD) policy sees employees given the choice from a menu of company-owned and configured devices. Generally, all of them would use a small number of operating systems, ensuring simpler IT management than a BYOD policy. Employees can benefit from not paying for a device, yet still have some choice, and businesses retain more control. The best of both worlds?
CYOD seems a perfect half-and-half solution. However, like all such arrangements, compromises must be reached. Offering employees a choice of approved devices provides more control for IT, but also means slightly less freedom for employees than BYOD. This restriction, however small, may not provide as high a level of employee satisfaction as a BYOD policy and hence dampen productivity gains.
Another potential issue of BYOD is whether the devices employees use are suitable for running business apps. This is also an important consideration for IT departments choosing their own device pool. Minimum processing power and functionality are still required to successfully run video-conferencing, CRM and other business apps. Adopting a CYOD approach can avoid uncomfortable conversations around which devices are not actually acceptable BYOD items and which ones an organisation expects employees to spend their own money on.
Security and version control are the main reasons that some organisations do not make use of BYOD, and they remain ongoing concerns for those that do. Unlike a PC or Mac, there can be many updates to a mobile operating system within a single year, and apps don't always work optimally with new operating system updates. Currently, around 70 per cent of the smartphone market in the UK is made up of Samsung and Apple devices. However, this figure is shrinking and we can expect that in the future there will be a much wider range of different machines that are used for work purposes.
Supporting updates across diverse operating systems can be extremely time-consuming for IT departments who are unrealistically expected to have knowledge of all mobile devices on the market. By offering only a few standardised environments, CYOD allows for easier management and security planning for the IT department. Data leakage also remains a key security concern. Most organisations with a BYOD policy retain the right to wipe all data from a user's device if it is lost, as they do with CYOD policies. However, this can be upsetting for employees when it happens to a personal device.
With CYOD, different employees could also be eligible for different devices and levels of corporate network access, depending on the type of work they do. Equally, some employees may not even qualify for CYOD devices, but instead be offered limited network access via their own equipment. Sophisticated mobile device management can make CYOD more flexible and BYOD more secure.
Inevitably, a wide range of entertainment apps will end up sitting alongside productivity and enterprise programs on any device, whether permitted or not. With employee-owned devices, there is nothing to keep staff from watching movies or sports or playing games, and it can be difficult for the company to monitor that activity. Some businesses report soaring bandwidth use once BYOD policies begin. Although there is nothing stopping an employee from installing entertainment apps on a CYOD device, IT departments often find it easier to enforce usage levels.
One of the strongest drivers of BYOD is the fact that people want to use a single device for both work and personal purposes. While CYOD offers greater corporate control, it does somewhat diminish the benefits BYOD aims to provide in the first place: the freedom to choose which device suits the user best. BYOD will remain a strong trend: Gartner predicts that by 2017 half of employers will require employees to supply their own devices. For the other half, CYOD offers a realistic option for meeting those essential mobility needs.
Simon Culmer is the managing director of Avaya UK