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BYOD blues: What to do when employees leave

Lisa Schmeiser | June 26, 2013
As more workplaces embrace BYOD practices, they'll increasingly confront the question of how to balance the benefits of a self-provisioned workforce against the risks of company assets walking out the door when workers are let go.

The bring your own device (BYOD) trend is gaining steam, thanks to the cost benefits and increased productivity that can come from allowing employees to provision their own technology. Mobile workers are more likely to put in more hours, so if your employees want to buy their own equipment and do more work on their own time, it's a win for the company.

At least, a BYOD-practicing workforce seems like a win right until you have to let one of your BYOD workers go and there's no easy way to ask if you can please see their iPad for a moment because you want to check if there's anything on their personal device that doesn't belong to them.

As more workplaces embrace BYOD practices, they'll increasingly confront the question of how to balance the benefits of a self-provisioned workforce against the risks of company assets walking out the door when workers are let go. What can IT departments currently do to minimize risk when BYOD-practicing employees are laid off? What practices and policies can they put in place to make future departures as smooth as possible?

BYOD layoffs: What you can do now
It's a fact that some data always walks with the employees: email addresses of business contacts, or knowledge of the organization's key business practices and initiatives. In the old days, people slipped files into their briefcases. Digital files just mean that copying and moving information can be done quickly.

Skip through the denial and anger stages and just accept that some data is inherently more vulnerable than others, and it's that vulnerable data, such as emails, that will be walking out the door.

"There's no definitive way to get on to a [departing] employee's personal devices and undo what's been done," says Joshua Weiss, CEO of mobile application development firm TeliApp. "And if your workers have been using off-the-shelf solutions like Dropbox, it's virtually impossible with some sort of exit interview."

Rick Veague, CTO of IFS Technologies, says that you can sift structured communications data into three distinct categories: email, files that could contain company information, and mobile data. Once you've sifted out the data, you can figure out whether your soon-to-be-ex employee is really in danger of walking out with the company's assets on an iPad.

"Mobile data is a big problem, so it's time to start compartmentalizing risks. This way, you can find a balance between the benefits of a [BYOD] workforce and the risks," Veague says.

And how can your IT department manage the risks without cutting into the perceived BYOD benefits? By planning ahead for the next employee departure.

 

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