There’s no denying or avoiding the proliferation of personal mobile devices in the workplace. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of all employers will require employees to supply their own devices. This forecast is based on a global survey of CIOs that found that 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing devices to workers by 2016.
For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), BYOD is a no-brainer, as it eliminates overhead and often reduces service and data costs. However, it also introduces a lot of unknowns into a company’s IT environment that few companies are equipped to manage.
Organizational supervision of personal mobile devices in an IT environment is lacking. Only 37 percent of SMBs are managing or plan to manage these devices using a mobile device management (MDM) solution. Without MDM, companies with a BYOD policy in place are at risk for security breaches, data leakage, and the financial losses associated with both.
If your business doesn’t yet have an MDM solution in place, it’s time to find one. Here are four best practices for managing the personal devices in your organization that will help you implement a formal MDM strategy:
1. Don’t linger on familiar apps. ActiveSync is good for a lot of things, just not managing mobile devices. The legal ramifications for “bricking” an individual-liable phone are largely untested. Avoid the inevitable scrutiny for erasing your end users’ prom pictures by deploying a low-cost mobile device management solution with selective wipe.
2. Recognize that BYOD is not for everyone. While tablets are great, they are not a direct replacement for laptops. Re-envision your end users in at least two segments: consumers of content and creators of content. Consumers of content — end users who primarily use computing devices for email, calendar, and contacts (for example, sales representatives or company executives) — are prime subjects for BYOD. Meanwhile, creators of content — employees that use their devices to create spreadsheets, slide decks, music, videos, and applications — should probably work on beefier systems that your organization provides.
3. Make MDM meet your needs. There are over a hundred MDM solutions on the market. Don’t get force fed answers by yes men at IT vendors that tell you that they have the perfect solution. Lean on an agnostic resource that can speak intelligently about all of the leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Mobile Device Management and help you pick the best MDM solution for your organization.
4. Invest in more IT. As employees increase the number of devices they use for work, the IT departments responsible for tracking and managing these devices are shrinking. Or, if you are a small business, your IT department might be the same guy that handles HR, or accounting, or both. Before encouraging employees to bring their own smartphones and tablets into the workplace, make sure you have adequate support staff to manage the multitude of operating systems and form factors that come with a 100 percent BYOD initiative. If you can’t invest more on internal resources, consider outsourcing your support. The leading managed mobility service providers charge on average $5 per user, per month for 24/7 support.
By drawing up a formal MDM strategy with these four best practices in mind, SMBs will be able to take advantage of a mobile workforce at a lower cost while avoiding the security threats that BYOD programs can introduce. BYOD isn’t likely to ebb any time soon, so if you don’t have a mobile policy or mobile device management solution in place, the time to introduce one is now.