Letting employees work from their own devices can increase productivity and make working life more flexible, says Alberto Soto, EMEA VP and GM of network solutions provider Brocade
As many industry watchers predicted at the start of the year, drives to increase efficiency and reduce costs have seen Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies become more widespread, with more and more smartphones and tablets connecting to corporate networks as businesses begin to support — or even encourage — employees to use their personal devices in the workplace.
Why implement BYOD?
First, a well-implemented BYOD policy ought to produce happier and more productive employees. Everyone who uses technology in the office or in their personal life has their own preferences as to what equipment, software, and settings they like to use. BYOD means employees can bring those preferences into their working environment, so that they are totally familiar and comfortable with the tools of their trade.
It is not hard to see how familiarity with IT, and the satisfaction it generates, can increase productivity: no more missing a key because it is in the wrong place on the keyboard, no more cursing the need to use some convoluted work-around to achieve an effect you could manage effortlessly on your home machine.
Furthermore, as BYOD policies develop over time, they could become a major selling point from a HR perspective, with companies vying to recruit and retain the best talent. Given a choice between one company that accommodates employees' personal technological preferences and another of equal standing that cannot make those allowances, it is not unreasonable to suspect that the latter could miss out on valuable members of staff.
It is often said that the increase of personal devices in the workplace will add to a company's IT expenditure. IT support costs will seemingly soar because of the complexity of integrating different operating systems and product models securely into the company network; maintenance will also become more expensive with more than just the one company-issue machine to deal with. But is that really the case?
It is just as plausible — if not more so — that BYOD could reduce the strain on IT service desks, as employees are more likely to take much better care of their own device than they might of one provided to them by their company, thus keeping them away from IT support in the first place.
Employees are also more likely to troubleshoot their own devices than they are to attempt to fix a problem with a company machine themselves. Being more familiar with how their own devices work, they feel more confident when it comes to resolving faults. They also feel a greater sense of responsibility for dealing with problems, rather than passing on even the most minor of issues to the service desk.
While BYOD policies have not been in place at enough companies for long enough to quantify the potential impact of all these factors, it seems perfectly plausible to suggest that BYOD will yield substantial benefits over the long term for both individual businesses and the economy more generally.
Of course, the issue of ensuring that BYOD is implemented reliably and securely should not be ignored: with so many new devices accessing heavily-burdened networks, companies will be challenged to keep pace with demand and ensure always-on, high-performance access to applications. Many will worry about network security and data protection, about rogue devices roaming the network — but with responsible policies in place these issues need not be insurmountable.
Vast improvements to corporate networks will be necessary as legacy environments struggle to cope with the added pressure. Without additional investment and an overhaul of infrastructure, high-performance applications, productivity, revenue, and ultimately brand reputation will all suffer.
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