Human Resources and Technology

‘Bring your own device’ policy prompts questions

Panelists address issues related to employees and companies.

April 5, 2013
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'Bring your own device' policy prompts questions

(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Companies maneuvering through the growing world of mobile communication options are facing a new fork in the road: whether or not to let employees bring their own devices rather than issuing company phones and other mobile technology.

CBI Telecommunications Consultants, located in Wyoming, pulled together a panel of experts from the area to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a BYOD policy and the various mobile-device management options available.

Amway’s Gerard Wood, IT assessment management, and Michael VanderMey, manager of desktop engineering and end-user technology, joined Spectrum Health’s Jerry Matt, lead information security engineer, and Ryan Brotherton, telecommunications engineer, to discuss their companies’ respective transitions and some of the challenges they have faced in making the switch.

Despite some of the hiccups and remaining details, all four panelists are committed to the need and benefits of a BYOD policy in today’s tech-driven world.

Specifically, they acknowledged that employees do not want to lug around two cell phones, two iPads, or two laptops, and keeping work and life separated in today’s work environment is unrealistic.

Just from a recruiting and retention standpoint, a BYOD policy can be seen as a perk or even a deal breaker for some employees. Spectrum Health began making the switch to a BYOD policy following repeated requests from clinicians and physicians who wanted to be able to use their personal devices on the hospital network.

“It’s such a big driving factor, because to recruit and retain the best talent, they need to have freedom,” said Denise Booms-Pepin, CEO and president of CBI. “It’s not that same environment where ‘if I don’t see you, you’re not working.’ That’s not the way it is.”

Additionally, technology is changing faster than most firms’ technology budgets allow, and many employees don’t want to wait to upgrade their devices to the newest model. A BYOD policy allows employees to update to the newest version of technology whenever they want rather than on the company’s timeline.

Despite the growing call for such policies, CBI senior consultant Vince Cobb recommended that companies take their time and put together a team to analyze their options.

Some key considerations that need to be evaluated by the team are:

  • Determine your current cost, which should include not just monthly access and features, but also help desk support and equipment.
  • Consider what devices you will allow on the company network. For instance, will you limit it to iOS-only devices or Android devices, or allow for any mobile device platform?
  • Will you offer a monthly stipend or use an expense report for reimbursement?
  • What changes will need to be made to your existing wireless use policy?
  • Should all employees be switched to BYOD, or just certain employees, and why?

A possible benefit of a BYOD policy can be a decrease in help desk use because employees will now seek support for their devices from the product seller; however, it can also increase help desk support needs as employees get set up with their devices, switch devices, etc.

Network security is a key consideration that concerns a lot of companies as they consider changing their mobile device policy. Limiting devices that will be allowed on the company network can increase security, but it also might frustrate or disappoint some employees who want to use a device that is not approved. Additionally, companies should look into mobile device management options, particularly considering data collection needs.

Geo fencing, which allows the company to create an authorized location or boundary for its designated users and their mobile devices, is another security measure companies should consider, according to the panelists.

Compensation is an important decision. Some companies provide a stipend covering a set portion of their employees’ service, while others ask employees to file more detailed expense reports with the voice/data usage for reimbursement.

Cobb noted that determining the payment plan is very important to the success of the BYOD plan for the company. The wrong decision can lead to an unexpected increase in cost rather than a reduction.

Finally, a good question to consider is who will be eligible to bring their own device. Cobb said in some cases it might be in the company’s best interest to allow only certain positions to participate due to costs, job functions and information security.

Travel also might be a factor. In fact, panelists agreed that employees who regularly make international trips are probably better served through remaining on a company-issued plan versus BYOD.

Finally, do not forget to update wireless policies regarding any changes your company is making. Employees need to be aware of what level of privacy they can expect on their device.

“One of the most important things is to understand up front what data is going to be available and what data the employee can expect privacy or to not have privacy in,” said Nathan Steed, an associate with Warner Norcross.

“Usually, the employer is going to want at least a view into all of the apps that are on the device just to make sure that they are secure and to make sure they have been approved … so the employer will want to clearly disclose to the employee what information they will collect and what they are going to use it for.”

Steed said companies should remember that just because a piece of data can be collected doesn’t necessarily mean it should be. They might not want to assume the risk of having access to that data.

For instance, employees may be using personal finance apps, health apps, pregnancy apps or other apps that could increase a company’s risk in certain employment decision situations.

“They could say upfront, ‘While we have access to this, we will not use it and we will direct our HR department to not use this information for any sort of employment related decisions,’” Steed said.

The biggest message provided by the panelists and CBI representatives is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each company needs to evaluate its own needs and analyze the costs and benefits before adopting a BYOD environment.

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