The potential advantages of ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) initiatives are clear and widely accepted. But there are risks and challenges to rolling out BYOD programmes, which is why it’s far better to get it right the first time.
BYOD lets employees use devices they’re familiar and comfortable with, lowers the costs of acquiring, deploying and maintaining devices and reduces the number of required support personnel.
However, as many businesses enthusiastically adopted BYOD, they failed to weigh up its real impact, and new breed of associated risks and vulnerabilities. Now, many early adopters, having had their fingers burned, are reining in or revisiting BYOD ventures altogether.
Organisations need to understand that once they commit to a BYOD initiative, it can be challenging – and costly – to back-pedal and reverse-engineer their programmes. This means clarifying the business outcomes you’re looking to achieve, and thoroughly assessing all the legal, licensing, management and security implications, before you take the plunge.
Those that have rushed into BYOD programmes share common stumbling blocks related to mismatched company/user expectations, failure to take into account the relative risk profiles of different device types, connectivity issues, poorly defined service level agreements and licensing bungles. To avoid these, businesses should consider the following tactics:
Survey your user base
BYOD programmes often falter because of unmet user expectations. Don’t assume you know what your employees want or expect from a BYOD initiative. If you do, you run the risk of even higher levels of dissatisfaction post deployment. Survey employees and set up a user community forum to get user buy-in. Ask employees what device(s) they’d like to use in the workplace and for which tasks. Find out whether they’d prefer to buy their own, or company-owned devices.
Balance device risk profiles
From a security perspective, all mobile devices are not created equal. A typical smartphone is a strong candidate for BYOD: it costs less, and involves relatively low security risks and licensing costs. Laptops are a bit more tricky: they’re more expensive and risky to the business as they carry more data, and for many businesses the hazards of supporting a ‘bring your own laptop’ initiative often outweigh the benefits.
Define service level agreements
Poorly-defined service level expectations can result in user frustration and contention for early BYOD adopters. For example, if an employee-owned device breaks, what’s the expectation for a timely repair to avoid lapses in productivity?
Anticipate connectivity conundrums
If your network is going to support a variety of new devices, proactively ensure that the user experience isn’t compromised by insufficient bandwidth. Consider using network optimisation tools, and upgrade your wireless network infrastructure in meeting rooms and communal areas. Poor wireless connectivity leads to negative user sentiment which can derail the success of BYOD programmes, so make sure you have re-planned your wireless infrastructure to support the load of new wireless devices (tablets, smart phones etc).
Revisit licensing agreements
Successful organisations will be those that take the time to consider user expectations and management, security, connectivity and licensing implications before rolling out a BYOD programme. By doing so, they will put themselves in a strong position to implement a strategy that makes business sense and keeps users satisfied and productive.
BYOD does have a bright future, but there’s still some immaturity in the market. If you’re gearing up to embrace BYOD, learn from the lessons and experiences of those who have travelled this road before you. If you get your BYOD programme right, your organisation stands to benefit from this strategic asset that will drive productivity and attract top talent through providing a dynamic working environment.