BYOD: 7 ways companies are doing it wrong

Many companies have been thrown into BYOD and have started allowing personal devices in the workplace without really developing a strategy. 

Though the push for BYOD has come largely from users and non-technical decision makers, a lot of organizations are finding that personal devices, when managed properly, can have benefits for all areas of the company.

However, a lot of companies aren’t doing enough to get ready for BYOD, and therefore aren’t getting the most out of the new trend.

Here are some of the steps organizations should be taking to manage BYOD, according to presenters at the recent CITE Conference in San Francisco:

1. Create a unified strategy

One of the biggest obstacles to getting the most out of BYOD is that many companies have yet to come up with a unified strategy, said Leo Rohlinger, Executive Director of AT&T Mobility Solutions Services, in a CITE presentation.

What often happens, Rohlinger said, is that individual business units have their own goals for what they want to accomplish with BYOD, as well as their own rules for how it’s managed. However, those groups don’t often communicate with IT or with other units.

One tactic that can help is setting up a committee to discuss the strategy made up of representatives from all business areas, said Paul Gustafson, Director of IT Customer Services for Domtar Paper Co., in a presentation.

2. Don’t let plans stay static

Once companies do agree on an organization-wide strategy, Rohlinger said, the work doesn’t end. One of the biggest drivers for BYOD is that employees want to work with the newest and best technology available — and these days, the technology that’s available changes incredibly fast.

That’s why it’s important for organizations to regularly reexamine their BYOD strategies and policies, updating them whenever it’s necessary in response to changes in the technology.

3. Don’t assume you know what users want

At its heart, the goal of BYOD is to let users work in the ways that they want. Therefore, the program should aim to allow that while minimizing the problems it causes.

But for that to work, IT needs to know what users want — which isn’t always obvious. For example, Steve Damadeo, IT Operations Manager for Festo Corporation, said in a presentation that his company’s tablet program initially focused on iPads, since they were the most popular device. However, after the program was deployed, it turned out the users didn’t like iPads and wanted to work with different devices.

The good news: If IT pays attention, it shouldn’t be too hard to find out what technologies users gravitate toward. In fact, they’re probably already using those technologies. The key, said Steve Cowperthwaite, CSO of Providence Health Services, in a panel discussion, is to find out what users are already doing, how they’re doing it, and why.

4. Don’t use a one-size-fits-all strategy

While evaluating users’ needs, it’s important to remember that no two user groups are exactly alike. Different employees have different requirements when it comes to how they work — and the company will have different needs regarding security precautions and other limitations.

In many cases, an organization’s best bet is divide users into groups and use different policies and deploy different management tools for each. Providence Health Services has five different groups of users that are all handled differently, Cowperthwaite said. For example, clinicians who use tablets within the hospital are managed differently than employees who work remotely.

5. Trust but educate

Much of the resistance toward BYOD centers around new security risks. However, IT departments are ultimately going to have to trust that users will do what they can to keep data safe, said Judy Batenberg, Starz Entertainment’s VP of IT Infrastructure & Operations.

One way to make trusting them easier: Train users on what security precautions are necessary, and why they’re important.

When conducting training on mobile devices, it’s important to never assume that users know how to use their devices. For example, Starz had employees who started using iPads, and the company offered no training because IT assumed the devices were intuitive for all users — until the help desk started getting calls from people asking how to turn the tablet on.

6. Get executive sponsorship

It’s likely that some or all of the executives in any organization support having a BYOD program. In fact, many companies have BYOD programs because their top brass wanted to work with their iPhones, iPads or other devices.

But it’s important to get executives on board with having a real BYOD strategy — that means not just allowing personal devices, but also having policies and limitations in place. For example, getting the HR department on board was a huge key for Domtar’s BYOD strategy, Gustafson said.

7. Choose technology wisely

With the recent explosion in BYOD programs, many technology vendors have started offering what they claim is the best and most feature-packed mobile device management (MDM) application out there.

But there’s really no such thing as the best system, Batenberg said — only the best system for each individual organization. It’s important not to get caught up in the hype over lists of features — many systems contain features that an organization won’t ever use.

Instead, companies should carefully consider what they need mobile management software to do before they go shopping for an application.

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