BYOD: Threat or Opportunity

We’ve probably all heard about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and most of us would know that WFH stands for Work From Home.  But have you come across the latest acronym in this space, SYOM which is ‘Spend Your Own Money’? Mark Lillywhite, EMEA North Technical Manager, Matrix42 spoke to Comms Business.

According to recent Forrester primary research, it is clear that across all the Western & BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, employees are spending their own money on IT devices and Apps (software) – thousands of pounds in many cases.

Think about the devices you have at home right now, multiply that across your company and it is obvious that home PC’s, personal smartphones, printers, online storage, broadband, etc, are now mainstream in a way that it wasn’t 10 or perhaps even 5 years ago.

What’s more, the modern lifestyle demands choice, so these devices at home and in our pockets will represent the entire universe of possibilities covering numerous platforms, manufacturers and suppliers. Standardisation may make support easier, but we, as consumers, want choice, although the analysis paralysis that often precedes a purchase is perhaps less welcome.

So what has this got to do with BYOD? Research shows that for knowledge workers (people who work with information & other people for the majority of their job), autonomy, mastery & purpose are major drivers of employee productivity and satisfaction.  This might be surprising but simple incentives such as pay & benefits, whilst important, are no longer the main factors that influence your employees.

Other factors to note are that there is a huge wave of millennials (employees born in the 80’s and 90’s) entering the workforce, and the amount of people working from home or a public place one day per week has doubled in the last 3 years.  Together these drivers are behind a collective shift in the attitudes of staff to their work:

They see it as their right to use a personal device in the workplace.

Over 70% will do up to 12 hours extra unpaid overtime outside of the office per week.

They want a better work / life balance, which means adopting a blended day, with time slices for work and life throughout the entire day, not just between the standard office hours of 9am to 5:30pm.

The trends in attitude drive new requirements at work:

People want to work flexibly:

Whatever hours they want

Whatever location they are in

Whatever device they want to use

They are smart enough technically and want to support themselves (the primary support mechanism is via searching on Google and talking to their peers)

They are happy to spend their own money on IT tools to help do their job (Devices, Apps, Services) better and work more productively

For the company, and hence Corporate IT, this represents both an opportunity and a threat.

The Opportunity

Encouraging the use of personally owned devices (whether PC, Tablet or Smartphone) drives better employee satisfaction, and productivity. Staff work extra unpaid hours when happy and flexible, and apart from productivity gains, staff retention increases, and recruitment becomes easier.

The Threats

Opening the Corporate IT network to outside devices can cause security issues. Smart staff will find a way to bypass IT policies altogether if they are not happy with what is provided.  The IT department’s reputation suffers if the standard policy is NO, and ultimately dissatisfied employees become less productive or even look at finding a new job.

So what is the best way for companies to deal with this trend that is sweeping the corporate landscape? An analysis of your organisation will reveal how many ‘knowledge’ workers you have, and whether your security needs are tighter than your productivity needs. The key to a good BYOD initiative is to take the stance of treating your employees like customers. This means:

Adoption of cloud services where appropriate to mitigate corporate network access (e.g. office365, Googledocs, gmail, dropbox etc.

Invest in device management software for both PC’s, Apple Mac’s and Smartphone/Tablets, and define usage and security policies that apply outside the network as well as inside.

Ensure the Servicedesk has a mobile category, as well as a BYOD category to track the impact of a BYOD initiative in terms of support calls.

Produce a BYOD statement with clear guidelines as to what will and won’t be supported, e.g. Microsoft office on all PCs or Macs are supported. MAC OSX is not supported, or email on iPhone/Android is supported as long as Management Agent is installed etc.


With the changes described above set to revolutionise the challenge for the Corporate IT department over the next five years, you need to start taking a structured approach to how to manage BYOD.

It is by no means appropriate for every organisation, but if you have a reasonable number of knowledge workers, or even a workforce who all need email, then the time to investigate how you incorporate BYOD is now. This will allow you to take maximum advantage of the opportunities BYOD offers whilst minimising any Corporate IT risks that it poses.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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