BYO for Business -- Is It Right for Your Company?

12/21/2011 04:02 pm ET | Updated Feb 20, 2012

If you're looking to throw a quick and cheerful party inviting your friends and family with the old standby BYO ("bring your own") can be the way to go. Of course, depending on the circle of friends, it can also result in a few targeted jokes aimed at the host for being a penny pincher.

Now we're hearing about BYO in business and the reality is far different. People want and prefer BYO for business, and don't mind forking out money for their own devices. Why?

According to global research conducted by Citrix with YouGov and ResearchNow, bring your own device (BYOD) is rapidly taking hold in business as employees prefer to use their personal mobile devices rather than standard-issue company ones. Coming from a company with a BYOD policy, it is encouraging to see others embracing this trend.

Conducted with 1100 small and medium size businesses, the study revealed more than 45% of businesses surveyed allow employees to use personal devices for work purposes. The same research found that over 36% of businesses are seeing increased pressure to adopt more flexible workplace practices. These results show that employees are increasingly looking to work on their terms - with devices and organizations that integrate personal lives to a greater degree.

Providing this flexibility pays off - the companies who support BYOD reported a 25-35% increase in productivity. In some cases, BYOD can also help reduce capital expenditures.

However, the survey revealed a note of caution for business leaders. An overwhelming 62% claim they do not have controls in place to manage BYOD devices. This is an alarming statistic for all companies to note. Allowing confidential data on an employee's personal device that doesn't adhere to security policies poses a huge risk not only to your business but to the employee's personal data.

So if the BYOD trend is truly the wave of the future and you have employees already asking for it, what can you do to ensure it doesn't compromise your business? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Account for the individuals who are using their own devices for work. Consider providing some device or business app assistance in exchange for their cooperation.
  • Consider setting up a formalized BYOD plan. At Citrix, for example, employees can choose their own device and the company will pay a one time stipend in order to offset the cost. There are certain conditions, such as a service agreement on the device; however, the device belongs to the employee not the company.
  • Check in with employees on the progress and success of the program. A 35% productivity gain is great but if only one-tenth of your workforce is using it, it may be worth knowing why others are not adopting or what changes are needed to make it more accessible for better returns.
  • Know what your IT team can and can't do. For example, you need to ensure you can offer remote access and support. If your business is too small to afford full-time IT support, consider setting up a remote help desk service with a local service provider.. Also, to unburden IT with tasks such as application updates consider a self-service option.
  • Ensure that your company's security and confidentiality policy is reviewed at least on an annual basis. If you don't have a policy, set one up. Many security and application providers offer resources for best practices and tips to minimize the risk to your business information and physical operations. At a minimum, enforce
a password requirement on every mobile device.

Let me leave you with one final suggestion: make a plan soon. With the gift giving and receiving season upon us, employees will likely show up to work on January 2nd with the latest and greatest in tablets and mobile devices. Now may be an opportune time to consider what your BYOD strategy will be and to share that with your teams. The most important aspect of BYOD is communicating with employees what your plan and policies are and how they can engage and support the program. If the survey results are any indication it will pay dividends to your business in 2012!

Happy New Year!