Your BYOD category

This post is excerpted from BYOD For You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work, by Daniel J. Lohrmann. It is posted by permission of the author and publisher. All rights reserved.

Let's start by categorizing your BYOD situation based on your employer's approach to items such as company policies, security, reimbursement plan and use of mobile device management (MDM) software. I describe three common BYOD workplace scenarios as gold (the strongest, most in-depth policy), silver (some policy) and bronze (limited or no policy) and use these categories to describe other factors affecting your BYOD experience.

For example, if your company has a strong BYOD policy, you are fully reimbursed for bringing your own device to work and your company deploys MDM software, you will probably use the gold advice. On the other hand, if you do not receive any stipend for bringing your own device, your company has no BYOD policy and no MDM software is deployed, you should follow the bronze advice.

What's Your Level? Defining Gold, Silver, Bronze

Consider these examples to help determine which category suits your situation:

  • Work Policy: BYOD policy
  • Security Policy Enforcement: Strong
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM): Yes
  • Smartphone Monthly Cost Reimbursement: Good
  • Use of Own Device for Daily Work: Extensive (most online activities)
  • Work Policy: Some policy applies
  • Security Policy Enforcement: Varies
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM): Minimal, may sync w/ Microsoft Exchange
  • Smartphone Monthly Cost Reimbursement: Partial, sometimes
  • Use of Own Device for Daily Work: Mixed (email, browsing, several apps
  • Work Policy: No BYOD policy
  • Security Policy Enforcement: Varies
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM): None for personal devices
  • Smartphone Monthly Cost Reimbursement: None
  • Use of Own Device for Daily Work: Generally light (email only)

Trevor, a new employee at a Big Four accounting firm, has decided to bring his Apple iPhone to the office rather than be burdened by an additional work phone. His new company has clear policies on BYOD and will fully reimburse him for all of his device costs, including a state-of-the-art MDM software package that he's required to install. He's concerned about monitoring and others seeing his personal data.

Rob moved from a Blackberry to a new Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone at Christmas. He wants to start using his new phone at work since his company will allow him to synchronize his email with the office's Microsoft Exchange email servers. There is also a BYOD policy laying out several aspects of accessing data, security and privacy. However, Rob is not reimbursed for using his own device nor offered a choice on what MDM software he can download. He is torn on whether to just stick with one of the company-offered smartphones, since all expenses are paid, or enjoy the freedom to choose to upgrade to a new device whenever he wants.

Elaine has been bringing her iPad to work for more a year. She likes its familiarity, which helps her work faster. The problem is her employer has no policy on using a personal device for work. She is not reimbursed for her use of her iPad or iPhone, but she still benefits by using the high-speed wireless access at the office. While security enforcement of the acceptable uses of technology policies is generally strong, everyone seems to look the other way when employees use their personal devices. Without a clear policy, Elaine constantly worries about company security policies, the privacy of her data and possibly being reprimanded -- or fired -- for what she's doing. 

Not all of you will fit perfectly into one of these three scenarios; in fact, you may fit into multiple categories. Still, try to generally determine your BYOD level as gold, silver or bronze. Keep in mind that oftentimes the BYOD environment may be different within the same company. For example, some businesses may reimburse executives who bring their own devices, but not students or lower level staff. 

Also important to note: if you are working for a company or government that openly forbids BYOD, strongly enforces security policy against BYOD, warns employees that personal devices can never enter their work spaces and consistently practices what it preaches, you are not in any of these three situations. I put you in another "steel" environment, and I urge you to NOT bring your own device to work at this time. Defense and intelligence community jobs that require top secret clearances are examples of this steel environment.

The bottom line is use your own judgment for your individual situation as I've never met your boss.

Evolving Situations

The good news is that technical capabilities and innovative solutions will constantly change our environment. So, just because you are in the bronze category now, doesn't mean you'll be there next year, or even next month.

While the gold environment may seem to be most optimal for employees with the most extensive opportunity for use of their own devices at work, more privacy protections in place and reimbursement for most charges, there are still advantages to silver and bronze environments. For example, bronze may offer more flexibility with software choices and less monitoring of personal activities at home.

Traditional boundaries between our personal and professional lives are disappearing, and we seek ways to integrate and simplify our online experiences—a trend often referred to as the consumerization of IT. If devices aren't password protected, backed up and able to support the ability to be wiped in the event that they are lost or stolen, major security issues can arise.

Don't be hesitant to suggest to management that the company needs a BYOD policy update. Well-meaning professionals are taking risks by ignoring this trend.

The goal is to maximize your BYOD benefits within the boundaries of your company's rules, but understand that your suggestions to move to a higher level (silver or gold) could benefit both parties.

Plus, just think how your leadership efforts could impress your boss and benefit your career.

Copyright ©2013 by Daniel J. Lohrmann

Read more about BYOD in Computerworld's BYOD Topic Center.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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