These days, it’s a given that employees across all industries bring their own devices to work, like smartphones, tablets and probably by the end of this year, wearables. According to Intel, around 82 percent of companies allow staff to use their personal devices in the office and there’s evidence that this increases employee satisfaction and productivity. On the whole, businesses have recognised that, in spite of initial misgivings, it’s impossible to hold back the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) tide.

So it makes sense that the next stage in IT consumerisation is ‘Bring your own service’ (BYOS). Widespread access to cloud services and work/productivity apps has allowed even the least tech-savvy employee to turn their smartphone or personal tablet into a mobile work hub which is readily accessible in the office or at home. BYOS has a way to go before it becomes as familiar and acceptable as BYOD, but do the pros outweigh the cons? Here’s an overview of the main considerations:

Should businesses try to block staff from bringing their own apps into work? Image © iStock/ymgerman

Pros

No training

Staff who have discovered for themselves services which fit the way they work will not need costly training to get them up to speed.

Mobility

BYOS facilitates seamless working both in and out of the office – for example, less time is lost in commuting or travelling to meetings if employees can access their own services on the go. Also people who aren’t tied to an office tend to spend more time working – research shows that around 70 percent of us continue to check emails and finish jobs outside of working hours on our smartphones and tablets.

Shared specialist knowledge

Those at the cutting edge of technology may well be exploring uncharted territory and the discoveries they make can benefit everyone in their team. In my own experience, developers looking for better ways to build mobile services have often found and started using superior tools and techniques to the ones we were familiar with. The fact that they have the freedom to do this on their own devices (and as mentioned above, often in their own time) has helped us all to improve what we do.

Cost-effectiveness

Individual employees, project groups and even whole departments can opt to use public or third-party cloud services because it's faster, easier and less expensive than following the traditional IT route to meet their specific needs. This will inevitably speed up the work process because it bypasses the logjams which inevitably occur when company-wide demands are made of the IT department.

The wisdom of the crowd

Anyone who is familiar with Kickstarter campaigns will appreciate the power of the crowd and its ability to get things done in short measure, if the will is there. This translates directly to crowd-based services – the contributions of like-minded individuals can accelerate the development of services in a way which is out of reach for most businesses, even those dedicated to R&D.

Cons

Loss of control

What has become known as ‘shadow IT’ is a cause for concern for some CIOs as it is tricky to monitor access to data and carry out resource management. Lack of version control is also an issue, as it is difficult to accurately assess who is using what service, if it is up to date and if it is the best use of resources. There is also an increased risk of people making errors, as they may not have the necessary skills to work with services efficiently. Individuals using their own services can also change the way they work. While this is not always a bad thing and can promote innovation and positive disruption as long as everyone shares what they do with each other, it can often hinder communication, information visibility and make teams more difficult to manage.

Systems management is more troublesome

If departments, work groups and even individuals are using a range of different service providers, it becomes more expensive and time-consuming to impose any kind of systems tracking/environment management.

Security concerns

Individuals who use their own preferred services to access sensitive company information pose an increased threat of data loss and information leaks. They also leave the business vulnerable to intrusion from malicious third parties.

While the business case for BYOS is still not clear cut, with many real issues needing to be considered, there is undoubtedly a place for staff-selected services in the workplace. The benefits this kind of freedom can bring have the potential to increase productivity, push product and project development to new heights, and allow staff to flourish because they feel trusted and empowered. To become mainstream, there will need to be a flexible yet clear IT ethos which encourages a controlled environment with boundaries and support – an intelligent approach to the inevitable.

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