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The case for BYOD

Published: April 17th, 2015 By: Dave Webb

It can be hard for the IT department or business units to articulate the value of a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy to upper management. A BYOD strategy enables the use of personal devices by employees. But what’s the value of that? You’re selling productivity and work-life harmony (not work-life balance; they’re subtly different things). So it’s helpful to arm yourself with a portfolio of real-life scenarios that demonstrate exactly how BYOD benefits those two things.


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Field work

Your road warriors and your people in the field—most often sales and service people—are your poster children for a mobile workforce. Back in the day, they hauled briefcases full of customer history and sheaves of work orders. Even before mobile devices, they needed the ingenuity to make mobile work: by fax, radio, whatever means necessary. The productivity gains by giving field workers access to BYOD technologies are possibly higher here than in any other area of the enterprise. A salesperson can call up orders and customer histories, contact information and potential promotional offers, and then file orders on the spot.

Telework

The potential productivity gains of a telework environment have been bandied about for many years, but it can seem like only the tech companies are embracing it. Not so. Many companies have turned their call centres into distributed environments. If you order a pizza by telephone from a chain, for example, chances are your order is being handled by someone working in his or her living room on his or her own computer. Some companies have employees regularly schedule a day or days each week to work remotely. One tech company I know of is moving to a new facility. They’re planning to have one workstation for every three employees, calculating that two out of three will be working from a remote environment. The real estate savings, in both those scenarios, are significant.

One factor that is limiting the uptake of telework is the so-called “butts in seats” factor—management feels it can’t control staff it doesn’t have in the building. In fact, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard have both issued edicts restricting telework in the last couple of years. Others, like Cisco Systems, are making telework part of the fabric of the workday.

Home work

I’m making a distinction between “telework” and “home work,” even though telework is quite likely to take place in the home. Telework is scheduled according to the mutual convenience of employer and employee. Home work is an ad hoc phenomenon. You have to wait for the gas company to fix your water heater in a six-hour window. You’re having a bout with the flu, or you’ve got a sick child who needs attending to. Or, as we’ve observed many times this past winter, sometimes there’s six inches of snow on the ground and the commute is a mess, starting with getting out of your driveway in the first place. BYOD allows employees to remain productive under these circumstances, and even be at their remote desks on time.

Disaster recovery and business continuity

I’m not talking about the mirroring-systems-and-data variety of disaster recovery, but the simple ability to continue to do business, at least on a limited scale. If your main office ceases to function, and you’re reliant on desktop computers and phones, you’re in trouble. Years ago, my office had to evacuate because of a gas main leak; 22 floors of offices emptied, vacant, with no business being conducted. Years later, I worked at an office that, because of nearby construction, suffered occasional power outages. We’d pick up our laptops and tablets and smart phones and go home, where we’d reboot again and get back to business.

After-hours

You have a project that needs approval and it’s running late. Your daughter has a hockey game you don’t want to miss (and, besides, she needs a ride). You can sit in the stands and wait for the project revision to come in by e-mail or some other collaborative technology, sign off on the project, and go back to watching the game. Maybe it’s running really late, and you don’t get the files until you get home and you’re watching Game of Thrones. Again, a quick sign-off, and it’s back to the murderous hilarity.

This is the difference between work-life balance and work-life harmony. The first implies that a trade-off is made; one side has to give a little for the other to be satisfied. Work-life harmony is about the two spheres of your life working together. That’s valuable for employee retention.

There’s your case in a nutshell: continuous productivity; real estate and lease savings; and happier employees. With some research, all of this can be quantified in dollar terms for your specific enterprise


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