It's fair to say that technology has evolved in such a way that most businesses and individuals can no longer do without it, and in recent years, relatively new technologies such as the cloud are helping to push the comsumerisation of IT into becoming the norm.
This has led to an increasing trend across enterprises to implement a Bring-Your-Own-Device scheme in which the employee uses their personal devices to access the company network. This means that there are also increasing concerns surrounding security, especially when the cloud is also added to the mix, although many of these concerns are unfounded, to some extent.
The cloud in particular tends to more secure for smaller businesses than on site networks, as small businesses tend not to have decent disaster recovery plans in place, or robust enough backup procedures. On the other hand, cloud is often based at a data centre, where all of the data is easily backed up and in the event of hardware failure, it can be easily routed to another part of the network.
That's not to say that it's the right solution for all businesses though, just as BYOD schemes might not be. Whatever the case, if you're thinking about putting such a scheme in place, it's wise to look at options and reasons that you may want to first.
Liaise with IT
If you have an IT department, then they need to be in on it from the planning stage right up to implementation. If you don't and use an IT support consultancy, then head to them first to seek advice.
The business case & ROI
Which devices you will allow
How the devices are used on a personal level
How the devices will access the network
How you are going to manage said devices
What impact BYOD will have on security
BYOD carries numerous benefits to the company, such as less need for capital expenditure and better collaborative practices which in turn lead to increased productivity and potentially, an increase in revenue.
Analysts at Forrester Research state that there are four key considerations when making a case for implementing a BYOD scheme.
The company's overall goals
When the BYOD scheme will impact various business units
Which processes need to be modified in order to accommodate BYOD
How long it will take to achieve potential benefits
This means that in the first instance, it's necessary to look at justification on a financial level, paying attention to all of the resources which may be necessary for the scheme's success. This means that in order to justify the need for BYOD, the company will have to come up with a report on the following:
Network infrastructure: every time a device is added you will have to create a new connection to the network, so you will need to look at whether the current network can support this.
Supported platforms: Apple devices are popular and more secure than Android but the latter are hugely popular choices for many on a personal level. You will need to price in the monthly licensing costs for a mobile device management (MDM) solution and possibly, some additional security solutions to address the variety of supported devices.
Software licensing: As well as MDM software, you will need to think about licensing for the products that your employees might use, such as MS Office and other applications as well as maintenance.
Physical resources: You will need to assess if you currently have the resources when it comes to IT staff both internally and externally and if this will need investment in order to support the scheme.
Security: This will have to be assessed and solutions put in place to protect the network and sensitive data.
Potential BYOD benefits
In order to prove ROI to the finance department, you will need to look at exactly what implementing a BYOD scheme can do for the business. It's pretty much a proven model now, so this shouldn't be too difficult, but let's look at a couple of benefits that affect the majority of businesses.
Enhanced productivity: This is the most widely reported benefit, as it's been found that employees that use mobile devices at work are better communicators, as they can collaborate effectively and efficiently at any time, from any place with a connection.
Employees are happier in their work, which also increases productivity and they can connect quickly with clients and colleagues, no matter where they are in the world, in real time. This means that rather than sit around waiting for documents to be couriered over, or email to come through, so everything gets done that much quicker.
Less capital expenditure: This isn't always the case, but for the most part employees that use their own devices won't need access to high-end machines at work. However, this is very much dependent on individual scenarios and the size and location of the network (on-premise or in the cloud).
Increased revenue: Again, this depends on the company, but let's imagine a scenario where a company has a sales team out on the road. Using his own device, a salesman can close a deal there and then, without the need to go back to the office to do the paperwork, enter it onto the system etc., which in turn means that the sale is more likely to stick.
It also means that sales staff can manage their own accounts and complete paperwork on the fly, increasing their productivity substantially. This could lead to an increase in revenue as the sales person increases the amount of accounts they can manage.
Once you've looked at the ins and outs of putting BYOD in place, you'll also need to think about policies and this is something that gives many a CIO a headache. Yes, they are personal devices but they also connect to a business network so it's vital that employees know what they can and can't do.
For example, an employee might enjoy playing games on a device or social networking; however, you may not want him to download apps that might compromise the security of the network. This can be managed with the MDM, but it's wise to ensure that workers know what they can and can't access when using the device for work.
It's a fine balance, as you want users to be able to have an experience which isn't too intrusive, but at the same time, you have to consider security. Too intrusive an experience and productivity will be affected, which then impacts the business case, so if the solution is going to have a huge impact on usability, then perhaps you need to reconsider.
Think about the use of corporate apps in order to overcome this, such as file sharing apps that are business grade rather than consumer, Dropbox being an ideal example of this. However, putting sound policies in place should overcome many of these concerns.
According to Gartner, half of all employees will be using BYOD by 2017 and it's something that carries a strong case for improving many aspects of a company. In fact, “[e]xpanding access and driving innovation will ultimately be the legacy of the BYOD phenomenon,” said Gartner's David Willis.
"However, the business case for BYOD needs to be better evaluated," he continued. "Most leaders do not understand the benefits, and only 22 percent believe they have made a strong business case. Like other elements of the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), mobile initiatives are often exploratory and may not have a clearly defined and quantifiable goal, making IT planners uncomfortable. If you are offering BYOD, take advantage of the opportunity to show the rest of the organization the benefits it will bring to them and to the business."
Bearing this in mind, perhaps you shouldn't be asking yourself if your company can afford BYOD and should be asking if it can't.