The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement has been called everything from the greatest innovation ever, to a nuisance to IT security and a bane of the working person who is expected to adhere to an “always-on” business model that has made the 9-to-5 workday obsolete.
The Rise of Mobile
Everybody uses mobile devices. Cell phones are seldom just phones any more, and smartphones come equipped with Internet access, web browsers, email, and easy access to the cloud. As a result, people in their personal lives as well as in business are using them to do things that once were only possible on a desktop computer. More importantly, it has been an enabling factor in the decoupling of work and production from the physical office.
On the consumer side of retail, shoppers used mobile devices for shopping in increasing numbers last year, and notably, last Christmas season’s Black Friday was the first day in retail history when mobile drove more than $1 billion in revenues, a 33 percent year-over-year increase, according to Adobe.
Analysis by hotel price comparison platform HotelsCombined reinforced the growing use of mobile across the board, noting that hotel bookings on mobile increased by 67 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year. “HotelsCombined noticed the shift towards mobile bookings back in 2014 and invested heavily in developing our mobile product to ensure we provided customers with the same experience that they would get on desktop,” said Chris Rivett, travel expert at HotelsCombined. “Since then we have seen mobile bookings continue to grow year on year, while desktop bookings have decreased. We believe that this number will continue to rise as more and more people embrace a mobile or tablet as their primary device.”
Remote working becomes the norm
A PwC report titled “Millennials at Work, Reshaping the Workplace” ranked flexible work hours as the second most desirable work benefit demanded by millennials. While BYOD may conjure images of slave-driving employers demanding that workers be available 24×7 – and this certainly does exist – there is a flipside to that Dickensian specter, and that is flexibility. People want it. The physical office, and the work that must be done, no longer have to be tied together.
The reason for that uncoupling isn’t just because the corporation wants it to be so, increasingly, employees are demanding it, and millennials are expecting it as a condition of employment. According to the PwC report, work/life balance is more important to millennials than financial reward, but employers aren’t always delivering on their promises of work/life balance. Twenty-eight percent of the survey respondents said that their work/life balance was worse than they had expected before joining a company.
BYOD innovation isn’t about the money
Companies quickly discovered that BYOD didn’t relieve them of the costs involved in providing mobile hardware to employees. Certainly, companies are moving towards BYOD and as a result, often do not need to provide mobile devices to its people, but any small cost savings that resulted from that benefit is offset by the increased maintenance and security burden of a vast and often informal BYOD network.
The immediate cost savings of not having to provide employees with company-owned smartphones would be minimal in any case, the bigger benefit comes from flexibility (both for employer and employee), and the positive shift away from office-centric work models.
The BYOD movement does trigger some additional costs – the IT department will have to be able to support multiple brands of devices, configure each one to allow for access, figure out rules for dividing work and personal data, and establish security protocols which are often very difficult to put into practice on non-employer owned devices.
The positive benefits of BYOD
Despite the inherent security challenges and the risk of over-working employees, the BYOD model is here to stay, and is being embraced by both employers and employees. The bigger question at hand is, whether the decoupling of work and production from the physical office brings benefits to all concerned, and the answer is a resounding “yes.”
This trend is enabled by much more than just BYOD smartphones. The as-a-service model has led to nimble “born in the cloud” startups which succeed by building up a large ecosystem of as-a-service providers rather than a large in-house workforce, built upon enabling communications technologies such as videoconferencing which allow even the smallest of startups to have a global reach. At the end of the day, anytime access really isn’t just about ensuring that the CEO can reach out to her underlings while they are at home watching prime-time television, it’s about providing every business – even smaller startups – with the tools they need to compete.
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Dan Blacharski is senior contributing analyst at Compass Intelligence, a market acceleration research and consulting firm; and the founder and senior PR counsel at Ugly Dog Media, a thought leadership, and public relations consultancy. Follow @Dan_Blacharski