We all know what the acronym BYOB means, but when it comes to bringing your own mobile devices, there are several implications for enterprise IT managers. Of course, BYOD isn't a new concept: people have been bringing their own PCs and connecting them to corporate networks almost as soon as the PC was invented back in the 1980s. I recall dealing with this issue as a young IT worker, trying to convince my manager that the nascent Compaq (which is now buried inside HP's product lines) wouldn't bring our network to its knees. Fun times.
Lots of companies are now picking up the tab on their employees' laptops and smartphones, as Sybase blogger Eric Lai mentions in his post here. (His post is also fun to see a picture of the original 29-pound "luggable" Kaypro, which I remember taking on some flights and having to heft into the overhead bins back in the day.) Lai raises some interesting questions about how to shape your own BYOD policy, such as measuring the level of control-freakiness of your management, and the level of trust of your boss towards your own productivity. Those are good questions, but he doesn't go far enough.
I spoke to Brandon Hampton the Sales and Marketing director at Mobi Wireless Management, a mobility service vendor. He had some additional issues that IT managers should address before implementing their own BYOD programs.
- Do you have the cross-platform knowledge, tools and specific apps for the various smartphones you plan on connecting? If not, now is the time to purchase the other phone platforms that your staff doesn't have much experience with and give them the chance to use them.
- Do you track all of your employees' devices centrally? Note I said track, not control. You can't manage what you don't know about.
- What kind of social media policies do you have in place? In our article here, we mention how to craft one if you haven't done so already. Given that the majority of businesses have some kind of social media presence, it might be difficult to ban its outright usage completely, and especially prohibit users from running mobile social media apps on their own phones.
- Security. Keeping devices secure across all platforms with secure connections, strong passwords and company server access is a challenge. You may want to look into some kind of MDM software to lock down devices, or wipe them clean when stolen. Certainly, requiring that all of your users have power-on passwords is a simple first step.
- Who you gonna call? Troubleshooting all devices and operating systems is important to address prior to BYOD programs being in place. Centralized management benefits the company so outsourcing that management alleviates the issue of business-threatening situations.