If you have IT management responsibilities you are likely well ahead of the game in understanding the technology associated with BYOD (bring your own device); the policy of allowing employees to bring personally owned mobile devices into the workplace and their use to access company information.
Ensuring that BYOD is implemented in ways that are technically robust can become all consuming but IT professionals should also ensure that they have a good grip on BYOD from a business management perspective. Seeing the potential and the pitfalls of BYOD through the lens of management at various organisational levels helps IT professionals and their managers to deliver BYOD solutions that are not only technically robust but serve the business well and mitigate risks to the organisation.
The business management perspective involves thinking about BYOD in terms of:
- risk vs reward;
- business value vs cost and
- managing change.
This is not to say that IT professionals should set aside their technical knowledge in order to adopt a business perspective; rather that IT professionals must be able to see the implications of BYOD though the lenses of business management in order to work productively with managers who are accountable for business outcomes and with their staff.
Risk vs reward
Business managers must determine risks reduce them where possible and make informed decisions about trade-offs between risks and potential rewards. The business risks associated with BYOD have been extensively researched and widely documented. From data losses to breaches of privacy law and from productivity costs to diminished management control embracing BYOD requires organisations to pay attention to a whole range of risks that were either of less concern or no concern at all with older technologies. In business managers’ minds the risks can greatly outweigh any possible benefits. They also know that like most areas of risk you can’t eliminate the risks associated with BYOD.
As an IT professional you know that BYOD practices enable a wide range of benefits or ‘rewards’ to organisations and the people who work there. There is the potential for greater freedom convenience and increased job satisfaction for employees and reduced hardware costs improved productivity and stronger competitive positioning for employers. Yet business managers are often most aware of the risks of BYOD and resistant to its implementation as a result.
IT professionals can help business managers with the risk-reward assessment by getting to grips with the potential for BYOD to deliver real business value and by replacing technical jargon with the language of business management in their discussions with colleagues in other disciplines. Adopting a business management perspective on BYOD involves weighing up the risks knowing how they can be reduced and assessing the residual risk against the likely benefits.
Business value vs cost
An important part of business management’s role is to control the cost of doing business using an agreed budget as a benchmark. Business managers also need to know the value they are likely to derive from a given cost. ‘Value for money’ exists when perceived value exceeds cost.
This principle is as important for BYOD focused decisions as it is for any other business investment. Business managers need to consider the likely value of implementing a BYOD policy compared with the cost. IT professionals can apply their knowledge about how BYOD works in practice to ‘value vs cost’ conversations with business managers.
When helping assess the business value of BYOD IT professionals should think creatively about how to quantify aspects of value that seem to defy quantitative measurement. For example whereas increases in productivity are relatively easy to measure improvements in jobs satisfaction are not. Likewise some of the costs associated with BYOD implementation can only be assessed qualitatively – the inconvenience of changing habitual ways of working and the effort required to learn a new IT system are examples.
Business managers are unlikely to commit wholeheartedly to BYOD before they are convinced that that the potential value is worth the cost. There is much that IT professionals can do to aid that process.
Like any major system or process change implementing a workplace BYOD policy involves organisational change. People are expected to behave in particular ways and where necessary make adaptations to how they have worked to date.
For some staff working in a BYOD environment comes quite naturally; they are adept users of their device and easily integrate its use into their work. Others face a far steeper learning curve. To avoid the productivity downside of people’s resistance to change business managers must consider how to best support their transition to new ways of working. There may be adaptations to be made too by people who are comfortable with the technology but unfamiliar with working within the constraints of a corporate policy governing its use.
BYOD implementations can put business managers themselves under significant stress through its effect on the relationship between managers and their staff. For example where trust is fragile and managers want to maintain tight control it can be difficult to believe that staff are doing the right thing when a BYOD implementation results in less face-to-face supervision time.
When IT professionals take time to understand the organisational change implications of BYOD they are much better placed to work collaboratively with business managers including HR professionals driving cultural change.
Check your business perspective on BYOD
See how you go with answering the following questions. They have been designed to help IT professionals check their readiness to take a business perspective on BYOD:
1. A senior manager (CEO division manager or similar) has asked your opinion on the risks associated with BYOD to your particular organisation. What do you say?
2. The same person asks you how a BYOD policy (existing or planned) would help your organisation. How would you respond?
3. A customer (or other external party with a stake in your organisation) asks about the risks associated with data about them held by your organisation. They understand that you allow or are planning to allow BYOD. What will you tell them?
4. You’ve been asked to help devise a training program for senior managers in your organisation to help them use their own devices at work. What would want to see covered in the program?
5. One of the senior managers in your workplace challenges the productivity benefits of BYOD. ow would you respond?
Whilst there is no model answer for any of these questions you can check your readiness to view BYOD policy and practice through from a business management perspective by assessing your own answers:
a. Did you avoid technical jargon and use the language of business management?
b. What about the length of your answers. Were they succinct and memorable? Or were they discursive – tending to induce eye-glazing in time-poor business managers?
Looking for more ideas?
For members with an interest in extending their reading about the topics covered in this article the following articles are available on the website:
About the Author
Dr Janet Fitzell is an independent organisational consultant and facilitator specialising in organisational development and team dynamics through her company FourLeaf Consulting Pty Ltd (http://www.fourleaf.com.au/). She facilitates strategic planning and team development undertakes organisational reviews coaches individuals and teams and generally helps organisations to build sustainable futures.