When it comes to the next wave of Unified Communication platforms, to bring, or not to bring…that has become the question.
To bring what you ask? To bring your own device, that is.
Businesses and technology buyers everywhere are asking themselves this right now. With pressure mounting as CEOs and front line sales alike are looking to use their favorite tech toys at work, IT leaders are being forced to ask themselves another question.
Should we or should we not allow our employees to bring and utilize their personal devices for business purposes?
Undoubtedly we have all grown increasingly connected at the hip (pun intended) to our favorite iDevice or Droid product. With this we have also grown increasingly demanding about having the opportunity to utilize these tools for work.
But just because we want to doesn’t mean that we should. This is exactly why we have CIOs and IT leadership in our organizations. If you are responsible for making the decision for whether or not to allow your UC solutions to be run on independently owned devices, here are some things to consider.
BYOD: The Good
- Integration: Most of the devices are running on the same handful of operating systems, most commonly Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. For the most part, BYOD integrationwith UC platforms is built on an application via iTunes or the Google Play store. This means setting up the device to work is usually a few simple settings, including pointing the device at the right server and then inputting user credentials. The experience on the individual device will be completely ubiquitous with the experience on a company issued device. If the employee should no longer have access, the app running on the device can be made useless by simply changing credentials.
- Cost: Generally with bring your own device, a company is able to put more of the cost requirements on the worker. This also alleviates some of the headaches related to preparing hardware for every new employee or chasing down hardware whenever an employee leaves. (Note: A lot of companies doing BYOD today still have company issued hardware.)
- Employee Satisfaction: Employees are generally appreciative of the opportunity to use their preferred devices, which is good for morale. As a side effect of this, the employees are often going to have the newest tools which would be very hard for a company to keep up with. We have all seen the life cycle of new products become so short that even when you issue your employees the newest thing they almost immediately become replaced by what is next. This way the integration with your UC platform isn’t as much device specific as it is operating system specific, so the company can provide some guidelines to employees interested in utilizing their own device and then let the employee take it from there.
BYOD: The Bad
- Security: As I mentioned above, security for BYOD and UC isn’t necessarily all bad. The real challenge is chances are that BYOD won’t be “only” used for UC. And if that is indeed the case, it is more difficult for a company to manage security when they allow personal devices to be used for work. Generally the company has to set acceptable use policy that lives on top of the personal device, but it is hard to mandate certain things. Take for instance social media use. Your company may not want workers on Facebook during the workday, but what about an employee checking in from their personal (BYOD) at lunch? Creates a real grey area. The other consideration may be requiring use of certain security tools such as anti-virus or locking their devices at all times. These can be part of the use policy and part of the expectations set for companies allowing BYOD.
- Compliance: If your company is governed by any sort of compliance laws, for instance HIPAA, then you have to make sure those rules are followed regardless of who owns the device being used. If contact information or UC integration with CRM or other systems that contain sensitive data, then the systems must be in place to make sure that the data is safe and secure.
- Data Retrieval: This goes along with security, but if an employee leaves or is let go the data that resides on the personal device will need to be retrieved. This expectation has to be set and agreed upon prior to BYOD deployment. Most UC applications are closely tied to customer records, contact information, sales and financial data and more. The good news for IT departments is this isn’t really a new challenge. In many organizations that have webmail interfaces, people have been “popping” email to separate accounts where they can access them from a personal device. What does need to happen is this needs to continue to be better managed to make sure important and sensitive documents aren’t left out there after the person has parted ways from the organization.
With widely available applications for UC on your own device, BYOD continues to gain momentum. Could a BYOD friendly UC deployment have a place in your organization? It just may, so long as you plan correctly and set the right expectations with your users up front.
Does your business embrace BYOD? I’d love to hear about the successes and failures of BYOD for your organization…Join the conversation below.
A version of this article was originally featured on Commercial Integrator Online and can be found here.