Considerations for a Successful Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Roll-Out

Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 3:58 PM


Many companies are feeling the effects of employees bringing their own mobile devices to work. Employees are hoping or expecting to have the IT department help set-up or solve problems, configure email, connect to Wi-Fi, and much more.

The following are some considerations when adopting a BYOD policy. These suggestions are considerations that will apply to most companies.

First, not all employees care about or use a smartphone. I discovered this when polling our employees about their mobile device usage. If your company moves to a policy of paying for employee phones, some employees will be glad to have anything with a battery and screen. Others will be excited if you simply reimburse for the cool phone they already purchased. Still others will be leery about "big brother" checking their usage and calls will feel suspicious. Plan for all types of reactions.

Next, don't try to support every smartphone and tablet on the planet. Just like PCs and printers, your IT department needs to test and support a short list of devices. It's too difficult and complicated to support any and all devices. Remember lessons learned from the past in support laptops and desktops. Also, you need to consider which devices are needed - by department - and get ready for employees who think they deserve more/better devices.

Get ready for the "data plan" challenge. The pay-as-you go data plans can get very costly if some employees freely browse and download audio and video all day long. Establish maximum use policies in those cases. For the "all you can eat" data plans, your costs will be fixed but you should consider productivity and liability of the employee.

Paying taxes? The good news for employees is that the Fringe Benefit Tax Guide says employee-owned devices with occasional personal use don't require reporting as taxable income. The IRS also issued guidelines in Sept. 2011 that employee reimbursements for personal cell phone plans are not taxable if there is a valid business reason.

With respect to privacy, be prepared to create and then enforce privacy and liability policies on employee use of company-provided mobile devices. The Supreme Court determined that employees have "no right to privacy" on a company-provided device. Be certain that employees know what you will have access to read their mail, texts, and documents.

And, you should consider a policy for appropriate use of media, including images and video. For example, use of child pornography can have liability ramifications for example. Use of other images can create a hostile work environment if, for example, an employee is exposed to pornography on other employee's device.

Will you provide unlimited texting as well? Will you allow company-provided mobile devices to be used while an employee is driving a company vehicle? Unless your organization can show that you enforce such policies, you will likely be liable for mobile device-related accidents.

Consider the issue of transferring phone numbers and the associated phone number ownership. If an employee transfers a personal number to the company, will you allow it to be transferred back in the event an employee leaves? And, are you ok with transferring a company-provided phone number to an employee when he leaves the company? Establish policies in advance and have employees sign off on their understanding of said policies.

International travelers bring their own series of issues. If someone travels outside the country, data usage, text messaging and phone calls can rack up exorbitant costs. Those employees must be aware of the challenges and held accountable for costs that will get into the range of thousands of dollars for a few days out of country.

Follow-up with IT on the types and frequency of help desk incidents related to mobile device support. Get ready for the challenges and demands. For example, is IT spending time training on how to use the device? Should IT drop everything when a C-level exec brings in a new iPad purchased at Christmas who wants email and Wi-Fi access? How many times will you re-set passwords? What is the course of action for a lost/stolen device?

This list isn't exhaustive. You'll find your own set of challenges. BYOD is here to stay. There are mobile device management (MDM) solutions on the market today that can help organizations of all sizes to manage device usage. Your IT will need the help.