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When BYOD is a productivity killer

When BYOD is a productivity killer

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs don't always help improve staff efficiency across organisations

Executives sure love their consumer gadgets, from Android smartphones to iPhones to iPads. They use them for work and play under newly crafted corporate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

BYOD basically means the user owns the device. In order to access company data, email and apps, the user frequently has to give up some rights to the device, such as the company having authority to wipe the device if it is lost or stolen. In turn, a company will provide a monthly stipend to cover wireless bills.

The company supposedly benefits from BYOD in two ways: It saves money because it no longer pays for the device, as well as enjoys greater staff productivity because the employee always has his "work" phone with him, including off-hours and weekends. That is, an employee with a BYOD smartphone doesn't have the option of turning off a separate corporate phone.

Both perceived benefits, though, are somewhat murky and controversial.

In the matter of cost savings, Aberdeen Group found that a company with 1,000 mobile devices spends an extra US$170,000 per year, on average, when they use a BYOD approach due to higher processing costs of more expense reports. (For more on this, see BYOD: If You Think Youre Saving Money, Think Again.)

In the matter of worker productivity, the benefit is more certain. Aberdeen Group analyst Andrew Borg told CIO that BYOD workers are "more likely to have their device with them at all times, not only during work hours, which means they are more accessible and in-touch."

But that's not always the case, says Stanley Li, CEO of San Francisco-based Netswitch. Li has helped many companies adopt sweeping BYOD programs, including VMware, which, earlier this year mandated that all employees carry a BYOD smartphone. (For the record, VMware CIO Mark Egan says he will save seven-digits this year through BYOD.)

The problem, says Li, is that many BYOD smartphone-carrying knowledge workers often take overseas holidays and this can have the opposite effect on employee productivity.

Li has had first-hand experience traveling overseas on vacation with people from other companies, including a VMware executive, and saw that many refused to pay for global roaming. Its an expensive service; Li once racked up US$200 in global roaming charges in two days.

Before BYOD, employees might take their corporate phone with them on holiday. The company automatically pays for global roaming because the phone is a corporate asset. Employees would "clock-in" and work a few hours during their holiday. For instance, a senior engineer on a critical project would be immediately accessible and could keep up with the latest developments via email and data-driven apps.

With BYOD, employees might check in via a local SIM card or Wi-Fi hotspot, but only occasionally. The company can't pay for global roaming on a BYOD phone because the employee is supposed to be on holiday (unless, of course, the employee is compensated for being "on-call").

The monthly stipend with a maximum limit wont cover the roaming charges. The employee would either have to negotiate global roaming prior to going on vacation or simply eat the global roaming charges.

Essentially, BYOD eliminates the free work that employees with corporate phones were doing.

"The employee thinks, I'm on vacation and I'm not going to do the work anymore," Li says. "It reverses the productivity and hurts the company."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkaneshige@cio.com

Read more about mobile/wireless in CIO's Mobile/Wireless Drilldown.

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