5 Keys for an Effective BYOD Policy

Jesse Theiler, IT Director, Landmark Services Cooperative.

With an ever-increasing mobile workforce, IT organizations are challenged to deliver value-added collaboration services while evolving service models. The traditional command and control culture no longer works. The consumerization of devices puts more power in the hands of customers, yet IT must ensure corporate assets remain secure.   

For progressive CIOs, embracing new technology is nothing new but the idea of consumers as a source of innovation certainly is. As innovation evolves so must we and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) concept has really taken off in the recent years. BYOD is an excellent way to maximize flexibility and choice while building your customers confidence. But it comes with risk too. This article addresses 5 keys that must be thought-through to deliver an effective BYOD policy.

1. What to BYOD 

So you’ve heard the buzz and you’re willing to give it a try but now you need to decide exactly which devices people can bring to work. The right answer is different for every organization but the common denominator is “need”. Be sure to allow devices that your employees (and particularly your revenue generating employees) need to do their jobs. If you have a largely office-based staff, bringing laptops might be a good choice but smartphones may not. If you have a highly mobile workforce, tablets and smartphones might be a good choice. 

2. Maximize Flexibility 

If you’re going to move forward with a BYOD policy, make sure you’re doing it for your customers. I don’t mean your internal customers, I mean your paying customers. By maximizing the flexibility of your revenue generating staff you’ll directly help your paying customers and that’s a great reason to BYOD. The dilemma for all IT leaders is balancing flexibility and user friendliness with finding an acceptable level of risk. In the old days we were highly risk averse but nowadays allowing for a little more risk is perfectly fine if the tradeoff is maximum flexibility for your staff. 

If you stay focused on adding value you’ll need to keep up with the ever changing consumer-driven landscape and staying flexible is essential. 

3. Acceptable Level of Risk 

Of course any device in the hands of any human being comes with risk. The trick here is finding what an acceptable level of that risk is. The pendulum has swung in favor of usability but we’re still responsible for ensuring the security of our corporate assets.  It used to be the answer was ‘no’ to any users question. Today it should be ‘yes’ and then immediately get to work on identifying and quantifying the risks associated with that answer. Articulate them, build a pretty good mitigation plan, and then get those devices in the hands of your users. 

4. Support 

It’s my opinion that IT departments these days need to be comprised of customer service people first, IT people second. Gone are the days of Nick Burns, your company’s computer guy.  Supporting ‘non-standard’ devices can be tough but it’s imperative that you align your support resources with the needs of your customers. Choosing how deep to support a BYOD device is up to you but a good start is to establish a mobility policy, consider a mobile management solution and support the network and corporate applications with soft support on the device itself. 

Most importantly be sure your customer-friendly support resources are courteous and helpful even if they can’t fix a problem. For example, have contact information for various cellular vendors readily available. Most account managers at cellular companies will readily partner with you to provide a point of contact and support with a simple phone call. Have that in hand so your customers are not left to figure it out on their own – something none of us like to do. 

5. Socialize 

You honestly cannot do too much socialization of who, what, where of a BYOD policy. Lead with what you ARE doing to support your company’s customers and how you are very willing to adapt and listen to continuously changing needs. Listening is probably the most important skill a leader has to develop. And once you hear what your customers needs are, direct your message towards how your BYOD policy helps. 

Talk about, for whom the policy applies  and for who it doesn’t. Also be sure to give credit to those who provided input into the policy as that will help you build credibility and support. 

Talk about what devices are acceptable within your policy again focusing on the positives. You certainly want to also discuss those that aren’t but remember, this is an enabler of business and your focus should be there. 

Be sure to clarify where this policy applies and where it doesn’t. Ask a lot of questions and be transparent with your answers. I’ve found transparency is the key to credibility even when the answer isn’t good news. 

The world of IT is changing and consumer-based solutions are a rich source of productivity tools for your customers. Embracing this change while protecting your corporate assets will put you in a position to succeed and by using these 5 simple keys you’ll be well on your way to improving your relationship with your customers and providing real value to your organization.

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