Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Saves Companies Money - But Could Cost Users Big

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) polices are increasingly popular as a way for companies to let workers use the hardware they like best and are most productive with. But according to a new study from Cisco, that not be the best way to think about BYOD.

Implement a strong BYOD policy, Cisco says, and your organization could save $1,300 per year per mobile user. Users meanwhile, report that they are happier and more productive - even though they may end up paying more out of their own pockets!

(See also Worried Workers: BYOD Or You're SOL [Infographic])

Happier, More Productive, But Poorer?

The survey, released Wednesday by Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) consulting unit, polled 2,415 users in six countries to determine the effects of letting employees bring their own devices into the office. The results indicate that employees around the world were very interested in BYOD, and they were even willing to pay for it: On average, workers said they would spend $965 out of pocket for their own devices and another $734 annually for the data plans to go with them.

Here's why: Workers with their own devices said they were happier and (more objectively) reported significant productivity gains. In the U.S., BYOD participants saved 81 minutes of time per week - just over 70 hours a year.

Not every country noted such productivity increases, and use of employee devices also had negative effects, such as increased administration, downtime and distractions that dragged the overall efficiency down, explained Jeff Loucks, senior manager at IBSG. 

Most of the devices in question were phones: 81% of device bringers reported they uses smartphones, 56% brought tablets and 37% brought their own laptops. On average, each of the estimated 198 million BYOD users around the world had 1.7 devices, said Loucks.

BYOD Keeps Growing

The number of BYOD users is expected to swell to 406 million by 2016. Even though the U.S. leads in BYOD use right now, by 2016, China alone is expected to have 166 million alone, compared to the 106 million in the U.S. and 76 million in India.

Companies fared best, Cisco discovered, when they implemented a strategic BYOD plan, rather than stick than just trying to keep up with devices coming into the organization. Such reactive policies tend to make users figure everything out for themselves, often working with an IT department that only grudgingly allows such devices into the organization.

Want to realize those promised cost benefits? Get ahead of users with a proactive BYOD policy that enables employees to quickly access corporate tools and data, perhaps featuring a self-service help system. Such policies also help organizations keep better security on corporate data.

(See also ReadWrite Survey Results: What A Typical BYOD Program Really Looks Like.)

Be Careful What You Wish For - BYOD Edition

As much as workers seem willing to pay their own way to get the devices they want without their employers' interference (only 30% said they would be willing to work with corporate-provisioned devices - often called Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled, or COPE), it's hard to shake the feeling that even though employees are more satisfied and productive, there's something unsettling if they end up footing the bill for this innovation. 

(See also Forget Bring Your Own Device - Try Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled.)

It's not an idle question: A recent Gartner survey of CIOs found that 38% said their companies planned stop providing employees with devices by 2016. Gartner also expects that nearly 50% of employers will demand employees provide their own devices for work purposes - out of pocket - by 2017.

Companies are increasingly willing to explore BYOD policies - but it seems that the reasons may not be entirely altruistic. Letting employees use the tools they prefer is clearly a good idea, but making them pay for the privilege doesn't seem right.