What is BYOD (bring your own device)  and why is it important?

Marine Klein
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BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is one of those IT and business terms that does exactly what it says on the tin. In a BYOD business model employees use their own devices for work purposes.

Read also: "A smartphone: the most important item in your toolbox"

What is BYOD?

This could include utilising task-specific apps, accessing company data or undertaking simple daily tasks such as sending business emails. You might think that BYOD is the domain of the small to medium sized business, however one of the most often discussed cases of successful BYOD integration is Intel, who have over 30,000 employee-owned mobile devices covered in their BYOD policy.

Intel manage this herculean task through their system of clear communication and tiered user access whereby users can select the level of access they require. By far the most popular BYOD device used in the workplace is smart phones. This is because these are the devices that employees feel the most comfortable with and regard as the most necessary for daily life.

BYOD has become the collective term that refers to a number of original initiatives including BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) and BYOP (Bring Your Own Phone).

Why is BYOD important?

BYOD is important for any business, but in particular for field service companies.

1. BYOD is important for productivity

We have already said that most employees are more comfortable using their own devices, they know how they work, understand their foibles and phones can induce a relaxed user-approach. A study by Cornell University's ILR School in 2012 found that there is a direct link between employee-comfort (or happiness) and employee-productivity.

Indeed their findings suggested a 6.6% increase in value-added per hour for each 1 point increase in job satisfaction. With this figure in mind BYOD has to be a factor in increased productivity.

2. BYOD brings about cost savings

When a company introduces a BYOD policy not only are the costs related to hardware purchases cut, those linked to direct device support are too.

3. BYOD can encourage employee retention

Gaining the loyalty of your employees is an important aspect of successful company function and should be built into HR policy. Not only does a high retention level keep your recruitment, selection and training costs down, it also removes the risk of possible customer disruption due to the integration of new staff.

Within a well-structured BYOD system employees will feel relaxed with their day-to-day technology, which in turn will lead to a willingness to remain within an organisation.

What are the pros and cons of BYOD?

As with any new company initiative BYOD has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. We look first at the advantages of BYOD and then consider any converse disadvantages:

1. The pros of BYOD

The issue of work/life balance and BYOD is a complicated one and we have included it in both the pros and the cons section. There are some suggestions that BYOD improves work/life balance through enabling an employee, particularly field service employees, to maintain contact with home throughout the working day.

This would be a definite advantage for those employees who have home commitments such as childcare. There is an argument too that BYOD allows for greater work-day flexibility which is another important factor for employee retention.

BYOD is likely to increase employee productivity through comfort and familiarity with devices.

This productivity increase will also be enhanced by the consistent availability of a device that can be used for home (most of us do not like to be without our phones for long).

This advantage too has a caveat, to which we have referred to in the cons section.

BYOD will reduce costs in the areas of equipment purchase, hardware maintenance, support staff and support training costs

BYOD will improve productivity through an increase in employee satisfaction and increased access to field service tools for engineers.

2. The cons of BYOD

BYOD could have a negative impact on work/life balance. Home access to work systems could put pressure, either intentional or otherwise, on employees to do additional overtime. Working from home has its advantages but trying to work during family time or without a dedicated work space can increase employee stress and have a detrimental effect on family life.

BYOD increases the availability of life and social distractions. On company devices for example it is possible to limit access to social media.

Read also: "Manage field engineer devices with Android at work"

A 2014 study by salary.com found that 38% of the workforce wastes work time on social media, 50% by chatting and texting on the phone and 39% browsing the internet.

Overall they found that 31% of employees wasted 30 minutes of time during each working day.

A BYOD policy will bring with it basic training implications. Although a Deloitte study found that UK smart phone ownership was at an all time high of 81% in 2016 (a rise from 52% in 2012) there are still users who only access a small percentage of available smart phone facilities. Confidence does not necessarily sit hand in hand with ownership.

A BYOD policy has security and data protection implications. When the same device is used for home and work purposes there is inevitably a risk of data being passed to other people either through the merging of data or when a device is lost.

How can I integrate BYOD into my company?

Swapping to a BYOD system cannot be achieved overnight and requires careful planning with possible beta integration testing. Below are some key points that should be considered:

1.Cost/benefit analysis

Undertake an initial cost/benefit analysis which includes device specification, user access levels, mobile device funding and security policies.

2. Study the ICO BYOD

Study the ICO BYOD guidelines for employers to ensure compliance with the current Data Protection Act and the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (May 2018).

3. Remote working rules

Consider the implementation of remote working rules and incident guidelines to cover the risks of theft from public WiFi locations.

4. Create communication channels 

Create clear and unambiguous communication channels with employees to cover types of data access, lost device reporting and support requests.

5. Write a clear employee exit strategy

The time may come when you need to ensure that ex-employees no longer have access to work-specific apps or company data.

Read also: "A smartphone: the most important item in your toolbox"

There are clear advantages and disadvantages to a BYOD company policy, but for field service engineers the advantages are obvious. The implementation of quality field service software systems will go a long way towards mitigating any initial risks. We recommend talking to one of our experts now.

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