There are lots of advantages to enabling employees to use their smart phones for work, but there are also problems. And now, says Malory Davies, there is evidence that some employers are turning away from the idea of Bring Your Own Device.
Sales of iPhones are 35 per cent up on a year ago, according to Apple, reflecting the massive public appetite for intelligent mobile devices. And that growth has, in turn, been fuelling the use of personal devices for work – the phenomenon known as Bring Your Own Device.
There are lots of advantages for employers in terms of sharing data, particularly in logistics where staff are constantly on the move. Most of all. BYOD provides a low cost solution.
But there are also problems – particularly in terms of data security – and there are signs that some of the gloss has disappeared from the whole concept.
Over the past couple of years, research group Aberdeen has produced a number of studies on the development of BYOD. Research on the mobile field service sector in November last year found that 62 per cent of leaders currently have some level of BYOD strategy (compared to 53 per cent of followers). And nearly half of all respondents said they planned to increase their use of employee -liable devices in the near future.
And Aberdeen pointed out that organisations that have adopted some form of BYOD strategy have benefited from improved SLA compliance, higher levels of employee satisfaction, and better service margins.
John Cameron, general manager at Trimble Field Service Management, says: “BYOD is considered by many as being the only way forward for businesses looking to compete effectively and offer the most efficient customer service and increased employee satisfaction.
He points out: “Aberdeen Group’s report found that 62 per cent of the top performing field service organisations have incorporated a BYOD strategy as a result of a more tech-savvy workforce and 43 per cent are more likely to give technicians access to social media and collaborative tools to facilitate knowledge transfer.”
Some IT suppliers are now designing their products to accommodate BYOD.
Worldwide Chain Stores recently released its latest warehouse management system, CSnx highlighting the fact that the open architecture and strong integration capability of CSnx means that the solution could support trends such as BYOD and the Internet of Things, as the need for these grow.
And accommodating BYOD was also an important selling point for Ford Telematics, the Telogis powered system launched by Ford at the CV Show earlier this year. Ford Telematics uses real-time information from vehicles to enable businesses with workers in the field to have insight into vehicle location, driver behaviour and fuel consumption. Ford reckons that fuel savings of 20 per cent are possible from the system.
It said: “Ford Telematics and the Telogis platform also allow for a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach, all helping to further reduce hardware costs and increase productivity.”
But there are a number of potential pitfalls for companies that wish to go down the BYOD route – notable in the areas of data security and the risks of malware.
Anish Mackan, technical manager for SaaS warehouse management system provider Snapfulfil, identified the issues surrounding the risk of malware, spyware as being critical.
“The risks to a business are often overlooked when it comes to things like malware/spyware. To combat these types of ‘unwelcome visitor’ to a company network, not only do companies have to consider the security vulnerabilities associated with users bringing their own devices, but the cumulative loss in production if these devices suddenly became unusable or impact the performance of the corporate network.
“Generally ‘consumer’ devices do not have high levels of security, anti-virus or malware protection and introducing them to a corporate environment requires strict countermeasures to ring fence these devices from contaminating the workplace network,” says Mackan.
“If any of the BYOD devices carried these types of threat, as some malware actually hogs device processing time, the performance of the devices could be drastically affected and within a busy supply chain environment could mean 1000s of operations carried out far slower than on a conventional device. Over time the savings made could quickly be wiped out and costs due to extra security and inefficient operation can rapidly mount up.”
And Ash Patel, director of business transformation at Cobweb Solutions, is also concerned about data security.
“Cloud technology and the rise of BYOD is enabling organisations to innovate, improve competitiveness, increase productivity and develop better customer relationships. As well as using mobile devices for email, file-sharing and communication, many businesses are using cloud technology to access business applications like ERP, CRM, data analytics and business intelligence, he says.
“However, concerns around data security remain a key hindrance to adoption of the BYOD model for some organisations. Strong data security can be an enabler for a thriving business, protecting assets, confidential data and a business’s reputation.
“With BYOD corporate data can clearly be at higher risk. For instance, if an employee’s device is misplaced or falls into the wrong hands, employers rightly fear that their corporate data will too. While businesses can ensure their own devices have antivirus and malware protection, with BYOD they lose some control. To accommodate the BYOD model, companies need to change their current hardware security policies and use the latest cloud-based services to manage their information appropriately.”
He argues that the rise of cloud computing has alleviated this concern by creating the framework from which BYOD can function, and ensuring sensitive corporate data is more secure.
“With the cloud, information storage and data processing occurs outside of employees’ mobile devices. Organisations who want to ensure sensitive corporate data remains secure should carefully consider using a cloud solutions provider to help tap into the benefits of remote and flexible working, while addressing their concerns about data security.
Patel points out that established cloud providers comply with industry data security standards, and invest resources into employing security experts, securing their applications and developing their technology beyond what is generally possible for other organisations.
He believes that businesses should consider placing stricter safeguards on what information employees can access using their personal mobile devices and restrict the use of removable media, such as USBs, where possible. “What’s more, organisations should install anti-virus solutions on all systems, and use secure apps or virtualisation technologies to ensure that sensitive data is encrypted and can only be accessed by authorised users.”
An alternative approach is “Choose Your Own Device” (CYOD). This is where an organisation defines a list of supported devices that employees can choose from to access corporate networks and critical business applications. The idea is that this will enable mobile productivity while maintaining some IT control. In a report from October last year, Aberdeen research analyst Sean Butler pointed out that organisations with a CYOD policy had seen a greater uptick in employee productivity than those with a BYOD policy.
There is some evidence in the US that the trend towards BYOD might have peaked as companies have had to deal with some of the problems that can arise.
A study by CompTIA in June 2015, Building Digital Organisations, found a clear move towards “no BYOD”.
It points out that the great focus of the past five years has been how to deal with BYOD. “With smartphones and tablets so prevalent in the consumer space, the question posed is often how to manage the BYOD flood, with the assumption that there is no way to stop it. It appears, though, that companies are moving in a different direction,” it says.
“There is a clear move towards a policy of no BYOD. Companies are finding that they can pursue mobility initiatives just as well by providing mobile devices, and employees are often happy enough to take a corporate device if it is the same thing they would choose on their own. A small percentage of companies—mostly small firms—elect to completely avoid device distribution. This can reduce the overhead required for device support, but it also raises issues for security and productivity. Many firms are clearly choosing to solve those issues by avoiding BYOD.
“Of course, this is simply the stated policy. Ambitious employees will find ways to use personal devices and applications even if they are forbidden, so companies must also consider how to detect such usage and correct the behaviour beyond merely building the preferred policy,” says CompTIA.
In September last year, Aberdeen Group highlighted the increasing costs of BYOD following a court ruling in California that businesses have to pay for part of the cellular plan if employees are using their own cell phones an plans for business purposes.
Jim Rapoza, senior research analyst at Aberdeen, argued that if the company has to pay for the plan anyway, it might as well throw in the phone and get back all the management and security benefits lost by going down the BYOD route in the first place.