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The Evolution of BYOD in the Workplace

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Jason Bott
ByPor Jason Bott

Jason has been working as a consultant and project manager with enterprises of all sizes for over 20 years. His expertise lies in utilizing technology to solve problems that reduce costs and increase profits. He has been instrumental in implementing successful software projects for Shell, NOV, C&J, Nabors, Total, Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Noble, American Tower, AIG, NASA, Nike as well as many smaller firms.

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Way back in 2014, CIO magazine did a feature spread on their website on BYOD (Bring-your-own-device) as a phenomenon that at the time was, perhaps, a  misunderstood and sometimes badly practiced alternative to traditional hardware management by companies large and small. The article spread went in depth into questions relating to security, morale, legal issues, and costs and savings, among other things. Clearly the topic generated, and continues to create, a lot of anxiety and speculation.

The question at the forefront of this article is how the BYOD landscape has evolved since then. Is the environment of BYOD normalized enough so that employees are now comfortable using their devices on the job, and are no longer bothered by the privacy questions that can arise? Are employers more likely to be able to support those decisions and devices with both a comprehensive BYOD policy and a prepared IT staff? Are companies actually saving money and increasing productivity as many proponents of BYOD once predicted.

First, before going into any kind of analysis, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess that this very article is being written in a kind of BYOD situation. I am currently working on my own computer while writing articles and doing research. I suppose that that means that I am my own target audience for this topic, which one could argue, is exactly how things should be. If I were to pose the questions presented above to myself, I would say that I’m not particularly bothered by the privacy questions that might arise– it’s part of the job and I have chosen to use this particular computer mostly for work. Additionally, the advantage of being able to work from anywhere, provided that there is a reliable wifi connection seems particularly powerful and allows me to be as flexible as I need to be.

Despite the advantages I’ve experienced, there are some that say that BYOD is only a passing trend that will eventually fizzle out. Some data suggest that it’s actually been becoming less popular among more and more companies. One reason mentioned is that companies are now more willing to invest in the brands of technology that people actually want to use. Also,  as older technologies start to die away (Blackberry), there is less conflict between what people want and what the company will provide.

Also, frankly, the consumerist nature of BYOD and it’s relation to economic trends could also be a factor. If consumers, who may be facing a lot of pressure in the market, begin to skimp on technology, then it only makes sense that the company they work for would be more comfortable outfitting them with the most useful tools possible to get their job done well.

Regardless of the detractors, other suggest that BYOD is going to pick up steam. One reason for this is a general trend of companies moving toward cloud computing. Another major reason is that apps have evolved to such a point that they can now be used on personal devices with less intrusion overall. If an app can be designed to track your computer only during working hours, or for certain work actions, then there is much less of an problem with privacy.

To be clear, there is a still quite a lot that needs to be worked out regarding BYOD, but the culture may already be moving in that direction. Younger generations of workers already have less of an expectation for privacy than previous generations have had, and are more inclined to use their personal devices for work purposes.

One major drawback however, is that security is still a major concern that hasn’t quite been solved. Only limited industries will allow their workers to use their own devices for fear of losing either classified or privileged information. Despite the kinks that need to be worked out, BYOD is definitely still a major factor in technology management that is not going away anytime soon.

What has been your experience with BYOD either as an employer or as an employee? Comment below to start a conversation!