The influx of personal mobile devices into the workplace is not without costs to business, as FSN writer Lesley Meall finds.
Many people are now more worried about losing their smartphones than the contents of their wallets, and we are now so keen to stay connected that the inability to function unless we are has been christened ‘nomophobia’. The warning signs include: never turning off your phone, obsessively checking your emails and texts, constantly topping up your battery, and feeling insecure unless your phone is within reach.
You may or may not recognise yourself. Finance people are no more prone to this ailment than anybody else, but they do have more reason than most to be interested in it, because nomophobia relates to a wider trend: bring your own device (BYOD). ‘People these days like the option of using their own computer devices at work,’ says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School – and smartphones and tablet devices top the list.
In a recent survey by Forrester a third of respondents admitted to using their own money to buy technology just to help them do their jobs better – which could be good news for businesses and their IT budgets (on which more, later). ‘Allowing people to bring their own devices to work will unlock their potential’, says senior Forrester analyst David Johnson, who sees some strengths in this self-service approach.
When the tools a person depends on for their job belong to them apparently they will: buy tools that help them to do their best work, select quality items that reduce the risk of time-wasting breakdowns, and pay more to source them from a reliable supplier. Many of these users will also be tech-savvy enough to configure their own devices and download the mobile apps available for systems such as CRM and finance.
But BYOD requires careful management. ‘Security policies in most organisations have not kept pace with actual practice, meaning that the organisation and its data are being placed at risk,’ reports Dominic Saunders, senior VP with threat mitigation specialist Cryptzone, something he attributes to IT managers putting too much faith in the understanding of technology amongst non-IT staff.
Psychologists refer to our ability to accurately infer the thoughts and feelings of others as ‘empathic accuracy’. ‘It’s very common in most business disciplines and simply means that, for example, a member of the finance team will presume that their colleague in sales understands the basics of accountancy, when in fact this usually isn’t the case,’ says Saunders, so any BYOD policy should reflect this knowledge gap.
‘It's got to be light enough that your average employee will look and say “Oh yeah, I get it. No worries”,’ says Denis O’Shea, CEO, Mobile Mentor, even if the summary guidance is backed by lots of definitions and explanations. A BYOD policy should also tie in (and be read and used in conjunction) with other corporate policies on confidentiality, conflict of interest, data protection, ethics, internet use and so on.
A free guide on the pros and cons of BYOD (and the various types of policy a business can take on it) is available from managed communications provider Azzurri here. Finance people may find it a worthwhile read, as it highlights some of the cost implications of BYOD, and the ‘hybrid’ choose your own device (CYOD) alternative, and ways of managing the associated costs.
These include: mobile data traffic and usage charges, the need for IT support, buying specialist device management software, paying for additional ‘mobile’ software licenses, and some less obvious costs. You may need legal advice on complex matters such as the ownership of data and employee rights to privacy; you may find that your existing hardware and infrastructure buckles under the increased demands of BYOD.
Finance will need to carefully assess the costs. Some research indicates that BYOD can cut hardware and IT training costs, and lead to increased output and workforce efficiency; some research indicates that the cost of supporting BYOD is higher than not supporting it. So it will probably take more than empathic accuracy and updating your security policies to ensure that BYOD doesn’t cost more money than it saves.