BYOD: Is the Debate Over?

In Technology by Daniel NewmanLeave a Comment

This post is sponsored by Samsung Business. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

For the longest time, we hotly debated whether or not BYOD is good for business. And why not? Few trends in IT have managed to generate as much hype and headache in recent times as BYOD. Over the past few years, the surveys and studies regarding BYOD reported mixed results—some bashing the trend, while others being more upbeat about it. And both supporters and opponents of the policy had ample resources to substantiate their standing. But the question is, have we arrived at a conclusion? The answer is no, not yet.

Computerwold senior editor Matt Hamblen touched upon this very topic while discussing the results of two recently released, apparently contradictory, BYOD surveys. CompTIA surveyed 375 IT professionals in the U.S. and found that 53 percent of them did not allow BYOD in their workplaces, while a survey commissioned by Tyntec concluded BYOD is “the new norm,” with the majority of respondents in the U.S., Spain, and the U.K. saying they use their personal mobile phones for work-related tasks. You get the picture!

BYOD is Still Rocky Terrain

The biggest problem seems to be that BYOD has gone beyond simply carrying an iPhone or an iPad to work and occasionally checking emails. It has now become a productivity issue where employees expect to collaborate, share ideas, and stay connected with their teams and clients, from anywhere. Research has found most BYOD users tend to use their devices to access email, calendar, Web browser, instant messaging, and Office applications. And since most of these applications run on company networks, it gives rise to security and privacy concerns. A compromised device could easily lead hackers to a company’s data and internal network.

Another issue with BYOD is that employees often end up using their devices for purposes not intended, such as watching TV, online videos, or livestreamed events, which can significantly weigh down a company’s network. Internet security company Zscaler discovered in 2012 that sports-related traffic reached more than 74 percent after NCAA’s March Madness began, and employees began online streaming at peak office hours.

Many companies simply ban BYOD altogether to avoid running into security risks. That, however, is short-sighted. Tightening the reins on personal devices actually does little to avert possible risks because people are more than willing to “go rogue,” and find a way around any prohibitive policy in order to use their favorite devices and apps.

With too much control behind shadow IT, and too little control posing serious security threats, BYOD is a slippery slope and definitely an issue IT departments are losing sleep over. At the same time, the benefits of BYOD as a motivator for employees to be more productive and engaged at work can’t be overlooked. So it’s no longer a question of whether companies should allow employees to bring their own device. It’s about how they can allow their employees to perform productively using the devices they prefer.

Where Things are Headed

For so long, the BYOD trend has largely been in favor of employees, responding to their needs. But efforts are going on to make it mutually relevant to both the employee and the organization. One such effort is the COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) model that hopes to curb the chaos that IT consumerization has left in its wake. Though unlike BYOD, COPE advocates the use of company-issued devices allowing businesses to retain some control over IT, it doesn’t prevent employees from using the devices any way they want and in whatever way they need to be more productive. So, even though the company owns the phone, the employee can check their social media accounts, or play games on it, without fear of reprisals. The reasoning behind this is the underlying logic is that when employees get their preferred devices from their companies, it eliminates any reason they might have to circumvent IT. But is COPE a fitting replacement of BYOD?

Company-issued devices are nothing new and the problem remains that even when organizations have strict policies in place, it doesn’t do enough to curb the ongoing BYOD surge. Why is that? Because the truth is even if businesses provide the latest and greatest devices to their employees, they still want the freedom to choose and use their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Frankly, CIOs and CISOs will always put a ban to some degree on the mobile access of corporate data or the use of certain apps. But, then again, employees still transfer files and documents via Dropbox or make calls over Skype, sidestepping security policies, often unwittingly. In fact, a 2014 survey by LogMeIn and Edge Strategies revealed that workers have nearly 21 apps on their devices—seven times more than what IT had expected.

Evidently, the complete elimination of BYOD from any business is unlikely. This is why the BYOD debate is still very much alive, and one that cannot be fully be ignored. Not today, and not in the near future.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

To BYOD or Not to BYOD, That is the Question
The Perils of Shadow IT: Your Most Senior Executives Are Doing It [Ask Hillary]
Is a Lack of Enterprise Apps Killing BYOD?

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Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.