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[20 comments]

Happiness Is ... Bringing Your Own Computer Devices to Work

August 6, 2012

Online business community Entrepreneur Country claims "it's surprising how something apparently as simple as allowing staff to bring their own computer devices (BYOD) to use at work can boost employee morale."

That comes from a piece was written by Charles Black, chief executive of cloud computing firm Nasstar, one of Entrepreneur Country's partners. Based on its own poll of 300 bosses of small and medium sized businesses, Mr. Black wrote, "Three quarters of bosses in our sample told us that by allowing their staff to use their own smart phones, laptops or tablets in the workplace positioned their firms as 'flexible and attractive employers.'" In addition, "Around two thirds of SME chiefs told us they already allowed their staff to use their own devices for work purposes. ... The same number said they had written policies in place for staff wishing to use their own devices at work."

The BYOD debate was also aired on the TechRepublic site where two CIOs explained their thinking.

Paul Green, director of business information solutions at Sheffield City Council told said, "The best device — when considered in light of factors such as integration with back-end systems, information sharing and security — may or may not be a consumer one."

Support, tax and licensing liabilities as well as responsibility, security, maintenance and management issues need to be considered. Mr Green concludes that before implementing BYOD, IT departments should "first consider how they can make the computing experience better for staff."

Jos Creese, Hampshire County Council CIO, told TechRepublic, "You don't resist inevitable IT trends, whether they are cloud, BYOD, social networking — you find a way of harnessing them and using them to allow the organisation to do what it needs to do."

This, according to Mr. Creese applies to everything from staff using their iPhones and iPads at work to looking for the best options to work flexibly as a means to increasing productivity. Encouraging choice between personal and corporate issued devices keeps BYOD manageable. "It's absolutely essential that IT is seen as an enabler of business change and improvement, not a barrier to it," he said.

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Questions: Do you think companies would be helped or hurt by allowing staff to bring their own computing devices to work? Are you for or against workers using their own devices to perform work while at home?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Do you think companies would be helped or hurt by allowing staff to bring their own computing devices to work?

Comments:

For retailers, in many ways this is borderline Utopian.

As long as they can manage the security issues, and there are companies willing to do that now, they get to serve up information to devices they have no responsibility for. Educated employee, virtually cost-free.

I see NO downside.

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Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

There is a difference between bringing the personal devices to work and using them for work. Even if employees are issued a company phone they are going to bring their own cell phone to work with them (unless they are specifically prohibited from doing so). The issue becomes what the device they are to use for work will be.

I expect most employers are going to be far more willing to allow employees to use their personal cell phone for work (and vice versa) than they are tablets or laptops. The issues of connecting iPhones, etc. to email exchange servers are now resolved and there is a comfort that the information is correct and secure.

Not sure the same is true for laptops. I think the big concern is what is on it when it comes to work and what is on it when it leaves. True, the USB storage drives are up to 128 GB so if a dishonest employee wants data they can take it with them, but I believe there is more danger in the information getting lost when someone's laptop is stolen. The information is backed up on the server or in the cloud, but I for one would feel better about the data's security knowing it is not on the employee's laptop.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

I'm for it, provided that the employee-owned devices can be integrated into a company's IT system without sacrificing security, and without creating IT support issues for the company.

If a company chooses to go this route, it needs to set clear policies regarding device operating requirements, security and maintenance.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

It may be time to rethink the office computer. Businesses want control and security over computers, but this forces employees to purchase their own computer. When they work from home, many use their own computer. As the world moves to the cloud, we have new options. While computer manufacturers will not like this, business should consider giving employees computers as a perk. They can set up security and office links. Maybe business should provide a dollar allowance every three years. The employee can then purchase what matches their needs. The cloud plus segmented security should protect the business.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Many challenges if the device is going to be able to access corporate information. Security, supporting multiple platforms, difficulty accessing information from legacy systems, and mixing business operations with personal issues are a few. The retailer needs to understand the total cost of BYOD and the business implications before choosing a path forward.

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Larry Negrich, Vice President, Marketing, nGage Labs

There's a fine line between allowing and requiring.

My husband's very large and successful NYSE employer is discontinuing their corporate cell phone plan. When his term is up on his corporate phone, they'll give him an allowance for $75 per month which is supposed to cover purchasing and operating a phone. Having watched him go through 3 Blackberries in 2011 and 2 Blackberries in 2012 *so far* -- and observing (and listening) to the number of hours he spends on his phone on company business -- I am not impressed. The cost shift to the employee is simply not okay. He will not be happier. And since I pay the cell phone bill, neither will I.

Connie Kski, owner, Animal Fair Pet Shop

Trust in employees drives employee loyalty. And that loyalty can manifest itself in very profitable ways. The first step is to encourage telecommuting. My company has been doing that since the 1980s. People tend to put far more hours into work at home, at all hours of the day and night, than they do when having to travel to an office.

Similarly, not just allowing, but encouraging utilization of personal devices tends to enhance productivity in that today, many consumers own far more powerful devices than the ones their employers provide. Why shouldn't an employer leverage their employees' superior device capabilities for business purposes?

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Consumer Products Industry Marketing Executive, IBM

One Millennial who lives in my house, an avid IOS user, rebelled when issued a standard-order Wintel PC. BYOD could well be the order of the day, assuming that retailers get off the dime and beef up security.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

I'm for workers using their own devices at work. It is another way to boost morale and productivity. Everyone has their own nuances of likes and dislikes from a technology standpoint, and it will remove one more complaint from the workplace -- "My laptop is so slow/heavy/ugly/fill in the blank...."

Concerns would be security, support, and getting access to propriety systems.

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Robert DiPietro, GVP Product Strategy & Business Development, Affinion Group

The quick, pragmatic answer is that it would be a nightmare for corporate security especially for companies in industries like defense, healthcare, law and financial security.

Might be a popular idea -- but not really a good one.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

I am for allowing employees to use their own devices at work. My concern would be the security of the information contained on it.

We have our employees working from their homes. They use their own laptops and cellphones. We have not had any issue since the inception of the program.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

This issue can be summarized as a tug-of-war between corporate security and IT support needs, and personal flexibility/productivity. While using one's own device can certainly compromise security if not correctly administered, and can also create extra support issues, at the same time it allows employees to work in a way that is more efficient for their personal needs (and not to mention perhaps with more updated technology than the corporate-issued devices).

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

As Ryan says, security issues could be a nightmare if employees are doing company business on their own devices. If employees have their own devices and are able to have them available for emergency calls or to use for personal reasons during break, that sounds like a reasonable choice.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

I'm all for flexibility. As someone who has worked from home for 7 years now, 2 for a company with a corporate office and 5 where my home IS my corporate office, I can attest that it's not so much about work/life balance as it is about work/life integration. As long as the expectation works both ways -- if I give you the convenience of handling some work things on your own device at home, in return I will cut you some slack to handle home things at work -- then I think the security issues are already well on their way to being managed.

The only place where this might not work so easily in retail would be the store. There, employees need to be focused on the customer. And while it's true that there are sometimes down times, I've found that employees whose downtime gets interrupted by customers aren't as customer-focused as they ought to be. So there's a greater risk that "personal" gets abused in the store. But on the flip side, we may find store employees increasingly asked to participate digitally -- which means maybe asking them to participate from home. And if you expect employees to participate from home, then you'd better be prepared to give a little on home life intruding at work. Or you'll need to pay more to compensate....

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Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Is there also separation of work and home issues here? I am starting to make a concerted effort to "unplug" when I get home and I have always endeavored to keep work and personal separate. Also, not sure I want corporate IT folks having access to my "personal" life on the computer. Now, if I am getting the opportunity to work from home, just make it secure and let's move on!

'Stanaggie'

This is a questionable position, since corporate security is usually compromised with locally owned, controlled and operated devices. The company has an obligation to provide its workers with the right tools and training to ensure that they can be productive at their positions. By asking the worker to bring their own "computing devices" the company not only compromises corporate security, but also communications and even productivity. Many individuals cannot afford to provide the products needed to work effectively, let alone securely. This is the responsibility of the company, not the individual.

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

I think it might be helpful to look at this issue from the perspective of some existing practices in field force automation.

In some parts of the world, field merchandisers routinely use their own mobile devices for direct sales, delivery and reordering tasks. The employer installs a secure third-party app that enables the process along with some necessary security and technical support. When an associate leaves the company, the app and any proprietary data can be remotely scrubbed from the device.

Why not apply a similar model in the retail environment? Many staffers already carry smart devices that have sufficient power to run a proprietary app. Most crucial data can be stored in the cloud, not the device (like Facebook and twitter already do). The deal might include an allowance toward the monthly mobile bill or data plan.

Retail employers would stop making capital investments in hardware that is obsolete on arrival. Employees would arrive largely pre-trained on use of their own devices, and they would have a built-in incentive to take care of the equipment.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

It is clear that Millennials have their own way of working and prefer to use their own technology when and where they want to. Supporting this trend will promote company morale and employee retention/productivity.

At the same time, I recognize that IT will be sorely challenged to support a broad range of technologies. The more a company moves to the cloud for their operations, the easier the support will be. If much of the work is done directly on tablets, phones and laptops, the task might be very daunting.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, M Squared Group, Inc.

As a consultant with multiple clients, I love using cloud-based tools such as Basecamp where we communicate via the web, or Omniture where data can be pulled from their site.

In the end, though, there always seems to be a need to VPN to the central office to access shared drives and databases. This presents a challenge to the IT departments, given that I want to work from a single computer, and each company requires a different configuration.

To answer the question, I think that it does benefit the company to let team members use their own equipment to complete work, certainly tasks such as responding to emails and or those using standard software, making them more efficient and productive.

Karin Jeske, President & Merchandising Consultant, StyleData

The BYOD trend is certainly gaining prominence in many industries. I feel this will make a difference particularly in smaller retail stores. Companies who perhaps didn't have the budget for the most up-to-date technology for employees, now no longer have to worry about acquiring technology for employees. This will make a difference in both budget and productivity.

Elise Acree, Marketing Specialist, Dealer Ignition

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