Let users’ personal devices help: 5 IT consumerization policy keys

The consumerization of IT is a trend that’s not likely to reverse any time soon. And it’s up to IT to manage the flood of users bringing their own devices to work in a way that benefits the organization, rather than puts it at risk.

In one recent survey, a whopping 92% of companies reported that they had employees using their own personal devices for work. Only 44% of those organizations had policies regulating the use of personal devices.

As the level of IT consumerization continues to rise, companies are scrambling to catch up. Those that haven’t created a policy yet must do so, and those with policies must constantly evaluate them to make sure they’re still effective in the midst of quickly changing trends.

Effective policies aren’t just necessary for avoiding the risks of personal mobile devices — especially new and increased security concerns — they can also help organizations manage IT consumerization and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend in a way that benefits the IT department and the company as a whole.

Those benefits can include reduced IT costs, as well as higher employee morale and productivity.

For instance, a recent Network World story cites the example of Holly Hunt, a Chicago-based design firm that saw enough value in employees supplying their own computing devices that management decided to pay a stipend to employees who use those instead of company-issued gadgets.

The payment is offered to employees who are eligible for a corporate-owned BlackBerry, but choose to use their own smartphone. The stipend varies based on the employee and is meant to cover additional cellular charges the employees have to pay for performing work-related activities on their phones. Even after paying the stipends, the company estimates it’s saving 5% on its cellular costs.

Before any policies to deal with IT consumerization are developed, one of the first steps is to figure out how employees will be compensated for using a personal device for business. Many experts recommend the approach Holly Hunt uses of offering a flat stipend, though some organizations may also want to process use reports to make more exact payments to heavy mobile users.

Here are some more tips experts recommend on creating policies to reap the benefits of IT consumerization while minimizing the risks:

1. Require devices to be pre-approved and have mobile device management (MDM) software installed

Different gadgets have their own pros and cons when it comes to security, and your company’s particular security needs will dictate which ones employees should be allowed to use. Also, installing MDM software with at least basic functions such as encryption and remote wipe allows the devices to be managed by the IT department. Users should sign off on this in a written agreement.

2. Use email as a carrot for user agreement

Even with policies in place, some users may resist having their devices approved and try to work around IT and access data anyway. But IT has a carrot they can use to get more of those people on board: access to corporate email. Email servers can be configured to block access from devices that haven’t been properly set up and approved by IT.

3. Properly train help desk staff

A benefit of embracing IT consumerization can be increased efficiency in the IT department — one mobile support expert estimates that help desk calls drop from an average of 4.5 per user per year to 2.5 when employees use personal devices they’re comfortable with. However, it’s important to have staff knowledgeable on devices users have so those calls can be handled effectively.

4. Consider providing devices chosen by heavy users

If the company still plans to cover telecom costs for employees using their own devices, as is often the case when dealing with heavy mobile users rather than people who use the devices for occasional email tasks, it might be worth it to supply the devices, even if the employees get to pick them. That could help the company get a discount on coverage by bundling the plans. That can also be a good approach for users who work with the most sensitive data. The IT consumerization trend is driven largely by users wanting a choice of device, so companies can still allow that while keeping the device corporate-owned.

5. Have a plan for departing employees

When the company owns a device, preventing a departing employee from keeping corporate data is relatively simple — the company just keeps the device. But with IT consumerization causing more confidential company data to be held on personal devices, the company should have a written agreement stating that IT will be allowed to wipe all confidential information from the device when the employee leaves the company.

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