BYOD: Is This A Good Thing Or A Bad Thing For CIOs?

Sure BYOD seems like a good idea, but is there a down side?
Sure BYOD seems like a good idea, but is there a down side?
Image Credit: Jeramey Jannene

Who’s responsibility is it to make sure that a company’s employees have proper communication tools? In the past, the answer to this question was simple – these tools were complicated and expensive and because of the importance of information technology it was the company’s job to properly equip their employees so that they could stay in touch. Well, things have changed. Now it’s the company’s employees who are showing up with the latest cell phones and tablets and they want to hook into the company’s network. What’s a CIO to do?

The Issues That BYOD Brings To The Table

As the person with the CIO job, you need to realize that the bring your own device (BYOD) craze that is going on right now has two sides to it. The first side is fantastic for the company. Consumer electronic prices have gotten so low that the company’s employees can now purchase mobile phones and powerful tablets that only a few years ago the company would have had to provide them with. However, on the other side of this issue is the fact that what this means is that a lot of company data is now going to be contained on devices that the company does not own.

It does not take the world’s smartest CIO to very quickly start to realize that there could be an issue here. Here’s a quick scenario that just might send chills up your spine. An employee is out sick for a period of time and the company IT team is requested to retrieve some important documents off of their personal iPad which has been granted permission to access the company’s network. In the process of searching for the requested files, the IT team stumbles across a collection of child pornography. Quickly a whole host of legal issues arise: did they have permission to look at those files? Are they now required to call the authorities? Have the employee’s privacy rights been violated?

Just to make things even more complicated, consider this scenario. In the course of a routine round of layoffs, an employee is let go. As a part of the standard IT process for dealing with terminated employees, the company remotely wipes his iPad of any and all company data. However, the wiping process also deletes the former employee’s personal data. Is this now the company’s fault?

How To Properly Handle BYOD

As person in the CIO position you clearly want to tap into the benefits that BYOD brings to the company. However, at the same time it should be pretty clear that there are a lot of big issues that come along with all of the good things that this new way of connecting with your employees brings with it. What you are going to have to do is to make sure that some polices are in place.

The company’s polices on BYOD have to be very, very clear. You don’t want to have anyone coming back to you and saying that they had interpreted the company’s policy differently than you had intended. At a minimum, your company BYOD policies are going to have to lay out who owns the device in question along with what information on the device the company can search, view, and wipe.

You are going to have to make sure that each employee who is participating in the company’s BYOD program knows exactly what they are signing up for. You are going to have to keep an eye on the employees who are participating in the BYOD program and the IT department is going to have to make sure that they are following the rules. If they choose not to, then you’ll either have to kick them out of the BYOD program or, in some cases, fire them.

What All Of This Means For You

We are living in interesting times. Once upon a time in order for an employee to keep in contact with your company, the company had to equip them with some sort of expensive communication tool. Now those very same employees are showing up with their own very expensive communication tools which are often better than what the company could provide them with. What is the role of the CIO in this brave new world?

Clearly it is in the company’s own best interests to allow their employees to connect their personal devices to the company’s network – it will save the company money and it will make the employee happy. However, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before this happens. Many of these questions revolve around data and what happens to it if the employee leaves or loses their device. Write down the rules and make sure that everyone understands them.

Since we are living in a new world with new rules, not everyone has the same understanding of just exactly how things are supposed to work. What this means for CIOs is that we need to take the time to not only put the correct processes in place, but to also clearly communicate to the company’s employees how it all works. BYDO can be a good thing, just make sure that everyone knows how to play the game.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that there should be any limits placed on what types of personal devices can be attached to the company’s network?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

By now everyone who has the CIO job has heard about “big data”. What this is all about is using modern analytical tools to process very large amounts of data in order to identify trends and opportunities for the business that were previously unknown. The IT department plays a leading role in the big data revolution because we are the ones who are keeping all of the data and we are responsible for purchasing and using the tools that will allow us to process that data. This is all well and fine, but once you have these shiny new tools, where is the best place to apply them? It turns out that the answer to this question just might be the call center.