For the first several years of the smartphone era, companies provided their employees with devices - the Blackberry, the Palm Treo, and the like were the go-to phones of the business world. Even before that, company-issued computers were standard operating procedure. These company-issued devices had a whole host of benefits: everyone was on the same page, technologically speaking. IT departments had a great deal of control over usage, software implementation, security, and a whole host of features.
All that began to change in 2007, when Apple released the first iPhone. Suddenly flip phones with cameras were no longer the height of consumer phone technology. With the iPhone, Apple introduced a devices that was both popular with consumers, and capable of meeting the same needs as a business smartphone. Not long after, Google released their Android operating system, and a whole armada of touch screen smartphones hit the market in short order. Before long, people in the business world began wanting to bring in their personal iPhones or Android phones for use in business. As these phones have gained in popularity, more and more companies have begun instituting BYOD - Bring Your Own Device - programs, where employees use their personal phones for business, rather than being issued a work phone.
Recently, Good Technology, a company that specializes in mobile solutions for business, conducted a study (press release; PDF) on these BYOD programs and their effect on busness. The results of the study, which says that the “traditional model of supporting only company-owned devices” is becoming “increasingly obsolete” show that BYOD is gaining popularity in the business world. Of the businesses surveyed 72.2% supported BYOD, and a further 3.9% planned to so so in the next year, while 14.8% were considering the program, but with no specific timeline. Some industries are more willing to embrace the concept than others: the financial and healthcare industries are more likely to allow employees to bring their own devices, while retail businesses and the government are less likely to do so.
Interestingly, larger companies are more likely to allow employees to use their own devices: 80% of companies with BYOD programs have 2,000 employees or more, 60% have 5,000 or more, and 35% have 10,000 or more. Of the companies with BYOD programs, half require employees to cover all related costs, while 45% provide employees with either a stipend or the opportunity to claim the costs as a business expense. The companies that provide a stipend appear to have the most success with their BYOD programs.
These programs are not without their problems, however. Though the study does not cover it, BYOD can cause some concerns for corporate IT departments. As employees are increasingly using a wide array of devices for both personal and business use, it is becoming harder and harder for IT to maintain the level of security and implementation control that they enjoyed in the golden age of the Blackberry. A number of companies - including Good Technology - have sprung up to help deal with the problem. Recently, in a move that some think may signal the beginning of their eventual exit from the handset market, Blackberry parent company RIM announced Blackberry Mobile Fusion. The new security software is designed to integrate iOS and Android devices into Blackberry's vaunted device security system.
Does your company support BYOD? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments.