The Progressive Workplace Series – Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)


BYOD, information pills or “Bring Your Own Device”, psychiatrist is a common topic in many companies today.  Today’s focus is specifically on comm devices, as we are saving the whole laptop debate for another day.

Whether  it’s a large organization trying to cope with the onslaught of associates who want to use their personal smartphones rather than the soon to be extinct brontosaurus Blackberry, or an earlier stage shop trying to create a more “user friendly” vibe – this is a NOW issue which has to be wrestled to the mat. Just as the issue of how to handle this is ever evolving, so are the pros and cons of where to establish your boundaries.

Among the topics to be considered are:

  • User Friendliness – Does anyone REALLY want to lug around two comm devices anymore? Did they ever?
  • Data security – How does the enterprise ensure that data is secure and well protected?
  • Cost – What responsible manager can afford to turn their back on an obvious opportunity to save cash – especially earlier stage ventures and start ups?
  • (The dreaded) H.R. Issues – What if a team member sends an “inappropriate” message to a colleague?

As the CFO of a startup, this is a situation I dealt with recently.  In our case, things were a little simpler than they would have been in some of my earlier gigs.  Everyone was already packing an iPhone/Droid, we’re all considered  “management / exempt “, and there was no established investment in infrastructure (ala a Blackberry server,company provided hardware).  Given those circumstances, we established a policy which includes the following key elements:

  • No company provided devices or company sponsored accounts – you pick your device, your service provider, and your wireless plan.
  • Financial responsibility rests with you, the associate.
  • We will provide connectivity to the company email system.
  • We will reimburse you $75 per month for  business use of your personal comm device. We surveyed the top providers, and selected this as a fair amount, erring on the side of the associate. This requires the associate to be responsible for  a max of $25-30 per month for their personal component of the entire package (voice/data/and text) – we cover the rest. (Insurance and additional features are not covered)
  • If you choose to carry a “PO” phone (“plain ‘ol phone) which cannot receive email, we will reimburse you $15 per month.
  • If you ever leave the company (and who would?), you take your phone, your number, and your service provider – no muss, no fuss, no hassle.
  • We rely upon our Associate Playbook (aka Employee Handbook) to address the issues regarding “appropriate communication”  between associates, as well as data security and confidentiality. Your comm device is treated no differently than your laptop/desktop/deskphone.

Our take is that this is a solid approach given where we are as a company – it’s super user-friendly, it’s easy to understand, it’s cost effective, and it requires virtually no internal resources to support it (take THAT, Blackberry server support fees).  The complete policy was posted at one of my favorite HR blogs, where Kris Dunn, a former colleague, also took on  the BYOD issue-based on our solution (it’s worth a read, particularly the comments section). Granted, for a larger organization, some additional structure would be necessary- especially if folks are accessing internal applications and customer data.  However, for many of us this policy is right down the middle of the fairway, or certainly a great start.  Oh, and by the way, don’t let the obstacles that some “control oriented ” functions may throw your way slow you down – the winds of change are blowing hard and steady on this topic.  It’s time to  create a more progressive workplace, and just BYOD…



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