Thirty-three million people are buying new iPads this year, according to Gartner. Another 27 million or so will buy tablets from other manufacturers. And more than 643 million people will buy new smartphones, according to ABI Research.
If any of these folks work for your company -- and, chances are, they do -- they've probably already started clamoring to get access to their corporate email and applications on these mobile devices.
There are three potential responses open to you: Issue them a company-approved mobile device, ignore them and hope they go away, or agree to support their device.
The first option is not only expensive, but it forces employees to carry two devices around with them. The second option, while tempting, will only work for so long.
So, many companies are looking at option three: BYOD -- Bring Your Own Device.
According to a recent Forrester report, more than half of US information workers already pay for their smartphones and monthly plans.
A report by mobile device management company Good Technology claims that 60 percent of financial companies require employees to pay for their own devices and monthly charges. According to Good Technology, companies that allow BYOD save an average of $80 for each employee who switches from a company-owned device to a personal device.
Of course, it's all to Good Technology's benefit if BYOD expands -- the vendor provides tools that allow companies to ensure that corporate data and information remains secure, even on personal devices.
Mobile device management vendors like Good Technology typically offer products that segregate company data, email, and apps and allow for remote wiping of just the corporate information if the device is lost or the employee leaves the company -- while leaving the personal stuff alone.
Employees benefit from BYOD, too. Many of us are on all-you-can-eat plans. For example, with my iPhone, I get unlimited data and unlimited calling for a flat monthly fee. It wouldn't cost me anything extra to use my phone for work -- and it would save me the hassle of carrying two different devices and two sets of chargers, giving out two different cell numbers, and having to check two places for messages. Plus, when I picked my smartphone, I picked one that I liked and that was easy for me to use, and if there was a problem with it I'd return it to the retailer -- I wouldn't expect my company to take care of it for me.
Consumers also buy cool new gadgets, while corporations tend to issue older-generation devices.
BYOD is not just about smartphones and tablets. Letting employees use their own laptops can also improve satisfaction and productivity, while saving companies money.
But if you're not careful, BYOD can actually wind up costing your company money -- 33 percent more, on average -- than just buying new devices for everyone.
According to research from Aberdeen Group, companies that take advantage of volume discounts can get mobile devices for an average of $60 per month per employee. But a company that reimburses employees for using devices that they bought themselves will spend $70 a month. Plus, there are the reimbursement reports, each of which costs an average of $18 to process. Plus, there are additional security, compliance, and help desk costs for supporting all these devices.
Here are some tips for making BYOD work:
- Let the employees pay for their own devices and monthly plans, and reimburse them just for extraordinary, business-related expenses such as roaming charges on international trips.
- Be clear and upfront about what the company will pay for, and what will be up to the employee to pay, to avoid nasty surprises.
- Set up security policies and compliance guidelines.
- Use mobile management tools or remote desktops to ensure all corporate data is safe and secure,and include the cost of these tools when you consider implementing a BYOD program.
- Make BYOD a choice, not a mandate. Employees with out-of-date corporate-issued devices may be happy to switch to their own smartphones, but if the switch is mandatory they may resent the loss of a perk.
--Maria Korolov is president of Trombly International, an editorial services company that provides coverage of emerging technologies and markets. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years.