One thing about having worked as an IT professional before making the switch to full-time writing and blogging is the additional insights that it gave me. For one, I am familiar with how the IT department thinks “behind the scenes” so to speak, as well as the very real challenges that they face.
Ironically, having been an end-user user myself as an adjunct lecturer in a local polytechnic, I also see the cumulative effects that well-meaning policies and restrictions can have on hapless users.
So while I am all for the benefits BYOD and believe that there is no turning back from the inevitable tide of consumer devices and cloud-centric services, I feel that it is important to objectively and honestly highlight some of the inevitable issues that stem from BYOD in order to bring it forward.
The truth about BYOD in business
One of the primary benefits offered by BYOD is how it allows workers to have their choice of laptops, tablets and smartphones. We all love working with our favorite gear, which tend to be sleeker or more powerful–or both–than what IT departments typically issue out in most organizations.
The unspoken downside though, is that IT help desk staffers cannot possibly be familiar with all devices out there, and could hence be expected to miss out on installing some important device drivers and software patches. On this front, I have seen laptops where the webcam didn’t work, to default device drivers and configurations that result in poor GPU or Wi-Fi performance.
At best, this could result in additional trips to the helpdesk to get things fixed, subpar performance, to outright loss of productivity as users scramble to fix it themselves on the eve of an important trip or call.
Another issue is how a proper diagnosis becomes that much harder without the ability to check with colleagues–who are likely to be on a different device. Users who are highly IT-savvy or who have relatively simplistic needs are less likely to struggle here, though anecdotal experience shows that one should expect 2-3 users “clueless” users for every tech expert out there.
Some suggestions for moving forward
Indeed, an online survey conducted by IDG Research Services in July confirms the situation of poor device support. Specifically, it was found that while three of five organizations allow the use of personal devices, support for personal devices was never offered at 27% of organizations. Only a meagre 12% actually allow personal devices and support them in all cases.
Worryingly, the same survey found that data compromise incidents over the last 12 months could be traced to lost or stolen devices in more than a third of all cases (38%). While it doesn’t prove that non-BYOD devices would fare better, the fact that IT departments are adopting a hands-off approach for a significant proportion of personal devices is telling.
Moving forward, I would like to offer two suggestions for businesses to better support BYOD.
- Identify and regularly update a list of devices that possesses the requisite specifications and business-centric capabilities, and
- Implement proper management of BYOD devices–and make sure that good security practices such as device encryption and passwords are included.
As the use of personal devices and public cloud services continue to take front and center in the IT landscape, it is imperative that businesses not allow it to go unmanaged.
For the sake of productivity, as well as the implicit threat vector represented by unimpeded BYOD use, businesses should seek to implement the appropriate end-to-end measures that allow them to regain control of these devices.