Bring Your Own Device Becomes Central Talking Point at Mobile World Congress

March 6, 2013

Employees are champing at the bit for the privilege of bringing their own mobile devices to work with them, and they may be in luck, as the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) issue has become the subject of much discussion at this year's Mobile World Congress talks.

Forbes reports that two-thirds of companies are already offering or planning to offer BYOD support, but many are still struggling with ways to manage the practice. On one hand, employers face difficulties with trying to keep information on workers' personal devices secure – but on the other hand, a backlash generally follows when IT officials control their employees' use of mobile solutions. Businesses are looking for a middle ground.

The productivity gains associated with BYOD are well-documented. Kim Stevenson, chief information officer for Intel, recently told CIO that employees' use of their own devices created five million hours of worker productivity – about 57 minutes per employee per day.

Intel recently grew the number of devices included in its BYOD program and also implemented additional cloud computing solutions – the company now uses approximately 23,500 mobile devices, a 38 percent increase from a year ago. Forty-one different applications are supported.

But there's a catch…
However, there are plenty of downsides to BYOD expansion. JD Supra Law News notes a multitude of security and legal concerns for any company venturing into BYOD. The main legal risk pertains to companies' need to access their employees' personal phones, especially if data needs to be cleaned out – say, if a phone is lost or if the employee is terminated.

Companies must make it very clear that their intent is not to access or erase personal items stored on personal devices, but at the same time, they should reserve the right to access and search phones when necessary. Their personal data is at risk, whether that risk is intended or not.

BYOD clearly offers both its benefits and drawbacks, making for a contentious debate on both sides.

"There is no real right answer," Rudi Greyling, chief technology officer at Avanade, told IT News Africa. "It depends on what risk you see and what benefits you want to get from the device in your environment for the organization. Obviously, if you do BYOD, there is more risk."

It's unclear whether BYOD is the right way to go for companies down the road – but for better or for worse, the dialogue is taking center stage.