I was interested this week to read a recent technology report from the BBC about the growing phenomenon that some whimsically refer to as ‘BYOC’ which stands for ‘Bring Your Own Computer.’ It refers to companies who are now offering their staff the chance to choose the devices they use for work – a laptop, desktop, Mac, tablet or iPad etc.
Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that soon you may find yourself using your own device – laptop, tablet and/or smartphone – for work whether you like it or not!
Some of us dream of a world where you have your choice of laptop, smartphone or tablet at work – all of which are, of course, connected seamlessly and are constantly updated! Indeed for those who feel like screaming in frustration when their ancient XP desktop computer tries and fails to open their inbox this might seem like an impossible dream – but for some people that day is already here.
The concept of BYOC though comes in a number of ‘flavours’. For example, the company might cover either all or part of the expense on the understanding that the employee also purchases a support package. Or it might simply provide software to allow employees to access a virtual desktop using their own devices. Most schemes allow for access via a virtual private network, or similar software application to ensure that data is always held securely on the company servers.
So what exactly has precipitated this idea?
In 2011 the level of smartphone and tablet ownership sky-rocketed and with it the trend towards the consumerisation of IT. In other words increasing numbers of businesses have come under ever-increasing pressure to let their employees choose what devices they use to do their work on. While many firms follow the traditional route of offering some sort of financial incentive, others expect their employees to pick up the tab. It is because of this huge increase in the rate of tablet and smartphone ownership that the ‘bring your own’ device trend has escalated.
A recent survey covering seventeen countries conducted by business technology company ‘Avanade’ found that a staggering 88% of executives said employees were now using their own personal computing technologies for business purposes. Another survey by Cisco found that although 48% said their company would never formally authorise employees to bring their own devices and 57% said that some employees now use personal devices without consent.
Ian Foddering, chief technology officer and technical director for Cisco UK commented that, somewhat obviously, companies need to have a clear policy on BYOC.
“We’ve been in the interesting position for the last 12-18 months. I look at what our clients are doing and up until recently they’ve been deciding whether to block BYOC or embrace it. Beforehand most people were ignoring it but now you’ll certainly find the more progressive organisations have embraced it.”
Cisco now runs a BYOC programme for its own employees who have the choice of either using company-issued laptops and phones, or buying their own.
Working in technology it’s useful to keep abreast of these sorts of developments in IT. The idea of BYOC is not a bad one and I can clearly see a number of advantages – but I can also see risks too, particularly in terms of my managerial responsibilities relating to IT security and data protection. That being said it’s also important to keep an open mind so I will watch this development of this interesting new trend with great interest.