Most businesses have very few critical objectives in relation to their end-user devices. The list probably amounts to maximise productivity, minimise risk and for total cost of ownership to be as low as possible.

I want to explore whether Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, in which employees use their own devices for work, can support your business in attaining those objectives. Here’s the spoiler, I’d say they can but you’re going to need to work much harder at it than a policy in which you retain control of which devices are used.

Maximise employee productivity

While employees may gain productivity from using a device they’re very familiar with, those gains may start slipping away when the device needs repairing or replacing.

When an employee’s personal device goes wrong, repairs may depend on a third party, consumer support contract. This will not take into account the priority of work delivered using the device. If the device is returned to the third party to be fixed, the user may be without the device for a week or more.

If support for the employee’s device is managed in-house, it will take more time to fix an issue if the support desk doesn’t have well-practiced processes specific to the model. While support technicians come to grips with a device they may have rarely encountered, the employee is left without the tool needed to be productive.

The situation in either support scenario is compounded further if the device is terminally broken or lost. A software image must be loaded to the replacement device so that it can comply with company policies and connect to company resources. This image is likely to need modifying for the specific device and that takes time.

For all but very specialised staff, the productivity gain derived from allowing employees to use an unlimited range of devices is offset by losses when the device requires support.

Minimise security risks

If you learn nothing else about GDPR, the bit you should know is that your business can be fined up to 4% of its annual worldwide turnover if it doesn’t manage data protection properly. Data security was really important before. Now, it’s the stuff of corporate nightmares.

How worrying is it that employees use their own devices for work and play? What if they lose a device; is company data stored on it properly protected? Are they really going to update security software? What exactly will happen to a device once an employee decides to give it to their kids to play with? Can an employee be relied on to professionally remove all company data stored on a device they’re replacing, before selling it on eBay?

All these concerns can be managed, albeit not very easily and they certainly don’t make your Data Protection Officer’s life less stressful.

Minimise total cost of ownership

A BYOD policy might enable a company to share the purchase cost of devices with employees who also use them personally. However, any medium to large company can gain device savings by selecting the vendor and device models to deploy and using its scale to secure a discount.

The cost of the device itself is of course not negligible. However, as should be clear from everything I’ve said about support and security, it’s just one part of the cost of ownership. Once the cost of resourcing potentially complicated and inefficient support infrastructures are factored in, as well as the potential for losses due to security breaches, the initial outlay on devices is put in proportion.

Happy, productive employees

For all these reasons, I’d suggest if you are tempted to go with a BYOD policy, think very hard about it first. BYOD doesn’t lend itself to straightforward management of the really important contributory factors to your success.

If it were me, I’d be more tempted to select a limited range of really good, modern devices and put in place simple but effective support and protection for them.  Your employees will have the high performing tools they need to be productive, at a good cost and with minimal chance of downtime and risk.