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BYOD brings fear, uncertainty and doubt to the enterprise

Tom Kaneshige | March 19, 2014
You lost your smartphone, which you also used for work. Think that's bad news? It gets worse. You wait a few days to tell IT. These days that can get you fired. So now you're thinking, 'I really wish I read that BYOD policy.' Five years after BYOD first caught fire, IT is still trying to figure out how to handle it.

Imagine you're working for a big financial services company and you stupidly left your BYOD smartphone on the seat in a commuter train, yet you're not really sure where you've misplaced it. So you search high and low, in your home and car, at restaurants and coffee shops.

In the back of your mind, you know that the company requires you to contact those robotic IT folks within 24 hours of losing your phone so that they can remotely wipe it, but you don't want that to happen. They'll delete precious notes that you need for a client, maybe even personal photos that you forgot to back up. Besides, you haven't searched everywhere yet.
You miss the 24-hour window, and the company promptly fires you.

Fiction? Hardly.

"I was at a CIO roundtable last year where a bunch of CIOs talked about the challenges of moving to BYOD and how they're establishing policies, and a few said that their policies state very clearly, if you lose your device and don't report it within 24 hours, you lose your job," says Bill Versen, director of mobility solutions at Verizon Enterprise Solutions. "A financial services company said they lost three people because of that policy."

The Three Phases of BYOD
It's been five years since the first iPhone lit the fuse on the BYOD fireworks, yet many companies are still in the trial-and-error phase of a BYOD rollout, with a few giant companies going to extremes. Three dramatic, real-world measures have emerged: mandating BYOD, pushing BYOD costs on employees, and tying performance reviews (up to termination) to BYOD user policies.

The BYOD mandate requires all employees to provide their own smartphones and perhaps tablets for both work and personal purposes. It became a hot topic steeped in controversy after a Gartner CIO survey last summer showed mandatory BYOD gaining steam. The survey results led to Gartner predicting that half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes by 2017.

Of course, it's quite a policy that tells an employee to spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone as a condition of employment. A BYOD mandate opens up a hornet's nest of issues. For instance, if an employee has a poor personal credit rating and can't qualify for a smartphone, should this affect his ability to land or keep a job? Maybe the employee doesn't want a fancy, powerful smartphone, so should she be forced to buy one?

Nevertheless, some companies are mandating BYOD, Versen says. Nearly two years ago, CIO.com reported that VMware was one of the first big companies to go all-in with BYOD in this way, requiring all 6,000 U.S. workers to buy a smartphone. Cisco and Ingram Micro enacted similar policies. 

 

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