The days of bulk purchasing and distributing Blackberry smartphones to your entire workforce are gone, it seems. Sure, some organizations still do this, but more and more corporations have begun embracing BYOD policies (“Bring Your Own Device”). And while workers may have mixed feelings on this transition, what should you as an organization think about it? And why, in general, is this happening?
In a galaxy not so far away and not so long ago, corporate IT departments would make blanket technology decisions and impose those choices on their workforce. When it comes to computers, this is still the norm — companies intent on satisfying the technological needs of their employees want to provide necessary hardware to their staff. On the other hand, IT departments love continuity within their hardware department because it makes their jobs much more manageable; no one wants to deal with installing programs, monitoring security parameters, etc… on an army of computers from different manufacturers running different operating systems. Most importantly, though, your CFO loves the ability to standardize your hardware provider in order to negotiate better purchasing rates. You also receive more personalized treatment from manufacturers if you’re a consistent customer that buys in bulk. So for computers, this makes sense from a corporate standpoint.
That being said, there are still always grumblings when a new employee that loves Mac for his or her personal usage has to adopt a Windows machine in his/her corporate job (or vice versa). But, for a host of reasons, those employees are willing to put up with the computer purchased for them — they’re only doing work on the machine (ostensibly) and as such, they can handle working in that sub-optimal environment because it’s part of the gig. Plus, no one wants to shell out the $1500+ for a new laptop when a perfectly good one is available for them via their employer.
The mobile phone is an entirely different beast…
Phones go with you everywhere, and you definitely do not use them only for work. Far more of your aggregate time spent on a smartphone can be attributed to checking social networks, reading personal emails, receiving and responding to text messages, playing games, etc…. As such, users are far less likely to willingly accept a blanket technological decree from an IT department mandating a specific handset manufacturer or operating system — any concession on this point will come begrudgingly.
Likewise, the price point for mobile phones, while certainly not cheap, is certainly lower than laptop purchases; so, there isn’t as large a disincentive for individuals to purchase their own devices. Now, many employees probably will not care what phone they have to use if it’s provided by their employer — that’s a welcomed perk to be sure. But, most of your technologically savvy staff probably have a strict preference in the iOS vs. Android vs. Windows operating system debate. So much so, that they’re willing to bite the bullet and purchase their own hardware so long as your IT department will support it. If part of the perk package you offer includes covering their phone bill, it makes it all the more attractive to simply bring their own device: Employees can update their devices whenever they want, switch manufacturers if so desired, whatever…; as long as their bill is taken care of, they’re happy with the perk overall — no need to spend the IT dollars to buy them standardized handsets.
This presents a number of potential benefits to enterprises (increased productivity, happier workers, etc…). At the same time, though, it can also wreak havoc on your IT department (security, data sprawl, etc…). In part II of this article, we’ll discuss what your organization might want to consider in the BYOD debate.