Bring your own device (BYOD) has a lot going for it. The simplicity of the approach of letting Jane and Joe use their own devices at work and compensating them in some manner is so simple and so rooted in common sense that the case against it is lost in the shuffle.
Or was lost in the shuffle. The reality is that significant downsides and obstacles to BYOD do exist. That reality may finally be dawning on corporate managers. Strategy Analytics released interesting worldwide research that revealed that everything is growing: the number of BYOD devices, the number of company-owned devices issued to employees, and the total number of devices shipped.
The percentage that deserves the most attention is the portion of corporate-liable devices:
More than 35 percent of Q3 sales of smartphones used for business purposes were corporate-liable, compared to 32 percent in the same quarter a year ago, and 31 percent in Q1 2013, which is a significant jump considering the steady growth of BYOD volume and the expectations that the trend would go in the exact opposite direction.
The bottom line is that the rate of growth of BYOD is slowing and the old standby of handing devices out to employees is, ever so slightly, reasserting itself.
CIO, in its report on the Strategy Analytics findings about corporate smartphones, added a couple of qualifiers to the results. It is not clear yet whether the shift, as slight as it is, signals the start of a long-term counter trend or just the inevitable leveling off of BYOD’s rapid ascent. The story also says that the uncertainty over the fate of BlackBerry may have skewed buying patterns.
The permanence of the trend that Strategy Analytics noted remains to be seen. In any case, even if it a statistical blip, it shines a light on the negatives of BYOD.
Myriad issues concerning security, the rights of the owner of a lost device to control when and if it is wiped versus the employer’s right to protect its data, the difficulty of fairly splitting the bill, and the ability of IT to support these various devices and operating systems have come about concerning BYOD.
BYOD proponents recognize these issues and are confronting them. For instance, it is possible to wipe portions of a device remotely while leaving other areas untouched. Software for managing BYOD devices is available, and Telecom Expense Management (TEM) platforms can figure out who owes what, while enabling employers to take advantage of the corporate rates companies traditionally enjoy.
But problems and challenges remain. Indeed, CBR Online quotes Natalya Kaspersky, who was Kaspersky Labs’ CEO and now holds the same title at InfoWatch, calling BYOD “a mess that was given a beautiful name.” She suggests that companies using it either don’t understand the need for security or do get it, and are willing to take the risk.
Potential legal issues have also arisen from BYOD. Computerworld’s Tom Kaneshige offers a very interesting story on BYOD and user policies. The upshot is that quite a bit of back and forth in the legal world has come about concerning what workers can and can’t do with their BYOD devices in regards to their employment.
Questions have also come up about how far employers can go in controlling these activities and gaining access to what is on the device. Under what conditions, for instance, would the employer have the right to demand emails or texts concerning the employee’s negotiations to join a rival company or communications regarding events in the office? Suppose an employee was suspected in the theft of corporate property. Could management demand access to emails and texts on the personal “side” of a BYOD device to see if any evidence concerning the crime exists?
BYOD is an extraordinarily powerful platform, especially for organizations that need to conserve capital. It is deceptively complex, however, and not a universal solution. It seems, at least according to Strategy Analytics, that organizations are beginning to understand its complexities.