Call it a movement of sorts, but employees are increasingly ditching their company-issued computers and smartphones in favor of using their own devices to get work done. One big reason: Their company’s tech is, well, terrible.
“They are primarily doing this because they have better technology at home. Their devices are better than what they would be given at work,” said Jennifer Bélissent, a principal analyst at Forrester who advises CIOs and vendor strategists.
In fact, over 60 percent of employees worldwide report they have used a personal device for work, according to Gartner research.
Not surprisingly, millennials are at the forefront of the trend.
“This new generation of workers has always used their personal devices in their school, and they have never been without these. So they see it as a step backward when they enter the workforce and get a heavy computer or antiquated smartphone,” said David Willis, the head of mobility and communications research for Gartner.
“Companies don’t really have a choice. These young employees are going to attempt to connect devices online whether you like it or not.”
Adapt or die
But with BYOD on the rise, experts say employers better adapt or risk serious privacy and security issues that could hurt business.
“The big concern with these systems is data leakage,” Willis said. “It’s so easy to connect with the cloud these days, so it’s very easy to spray something out in the public that you didn’t mean to send.”
If companies don’t take steps to make sure devices employees are using are secure, they may also be exposing their network to malware, said Richard Henderson, the security strategist for the security firm Fortinet.
On the other hand, companies could lose their most talented employees if they aren’t willing to give them better technology or allow them to use their own devices, Willis said.
“The overarching theme here is that companies need to take their heads out of the sand. This isn’t going away, it doesn’t matter how much you want it to be like 1996 again where everyone ran Windows on a Thinkpad. Those days are over,” Henderson said. “Do it or stay mediocre.”
For a long time IT departments argued that managing one type of device for all employees was much more efficient, but that is a myth and they can’t lean on that excuse anymore, Henderson said. Software has advanced so that it is now easy for IT to manage applications across different platforms, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, he said.
“Pandora’s box has kind of been opened there. No matter how much they want to standardize things, they can’t. There’s no going back,” Henderson said.
The cost of BYOD
But embracing BYOD doesn’t mean allowing a free-for-all where employees can access the company network from any device as they please, Henderson said.
A company must first develop a corporate policy that enables the company some access to the employees’ devices so that they can keep their network secure.
“If you are going to allow employees to use a certain device if they want to, let them use it,” Henderson said. “But you need to make them aware by allowing them to use this device on the corporate network, they have to relinquish a little bit of control to the company.”
Some of that control includes allowing the employer to install the proper VPN client software that enables the company to wipe the device clean in case it’s stolen, and an antivirus packet, Henderson said. And this means the company will have to make some investments
According to Gartner Research, investments in mobile apps, security, management and support will cost companies more than $300 per year per employee by 2016.
“There’s no such thing as a free device in this model,” Willis said. “Even if you aren’t paying for the device, employers will still need to spend to protect the devices used.”
But in the long run, BYOD can actually save companies money because they can cut the cost of paying for the wireless service, which usually averages around $900 per year per employee, Willis said.
If employers aren’t going to pay up to support BYOD, they better be ready to pay to give their employees some better technology.
“Another option is what we call CYOD, or choose your own device. Rather than saying you have to have this particular mobile device or accept an employee bring in any device they please, employers can give their employees a reasonable list of devices to choose from. This allows for flexibility,” Bélissent said.
However, more companies will opt for BYOD, Willis said. According to Gartner research, about 38 percent of companies will be completely BYOD by 2016.
Image credit: CC by JefferyTurner