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As the lines between personal and work identity continue to blur, is there a better way to do business in the BYOD age?
Across nearly every industry, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend has skyrocketed over the past two years. It’s become such a force in modern business that information technology research company Gartner Inc. declared, “The rise of … BYOD programs is the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace.”
In fact, Gartner forecasts that by 2018, 70 percent of mobile professionals will conduct work on personal devices. Driven by the BYOD tidal wave, many companies have been forced to formalize BYOD as the standard, in part by worker demand, but also as a cost-saving measure.
There’s no denying that mobility and BYOD have created massive gains in efficiency, connectivity and flexibility for workers. But, on the flip side, it’s also created a modern-day identity crisis. Employees who use personal devices for business are forced to give up their personal identity and contact information in a professional context, something they’d never consider doing with a landline (home) phone or personal e-mail. The increasing adoption of messaging apps (SMS and others) that leverage mobile phone numbers as ID is making it even more difficult for employees to retain separate professional and personal identities.
BYOD also makes maintaining a healthy separation and balance between work and personal time much more difficult. When customers, clients and co-workers have the ability to contact you at any time, it’s expected that you’ll answer or reply immediately regardless of “normal” business hours.
For employers, BYOD clearly saves money by eliminating the need to provide employees with devices. But there is still a major cost to consider. The BYOD trend has generated a gauntlet of support and security concerns, and enterprises are working feverishly to establish policies and protocols for managing the onslaught. Providing technical support on such a wide range of devices can be a major drain on resources, not to mention the security risks. According to Forrester, an independent technology and market research company, more than half of information workers bring their own devices for work—and with those devices, also bring a bevy of installed unsupported software or Internet-based services, like Skype, WhatsApp or file-sharing services.
Employee-owned devices also have the potential to expose valuable, confidential company data to the risk of loss, theft or sabotage. When employees store customer or client contact data on their personal device, what happens if that device is lost or stolen, or if they leave the company? In many cases, the business is virtually powerless to mitigate the risk.
All of these factors are contributing to anxiety on both sides of the employee/employer equation. With so much BYOD growth on the horizon, will workers and companies accept the increasingly blurred line as the cost of doing business? Or can technology help eliminate the problem?
Fortunately, there are promising solutions that can help restore the appropriate barriers, identity and security, but that still afford the same efficiency, cost savings and flexibility inherent in the BYOD model.
One option is integrated cloud-based business communications, also known as Integrated Communications as a Service, or iCaaS. With iCaaS systems, companies can unify contact numbers (office and mobile) for each employee onto a single universal number. This way, customers, clients or colleagues need only dial or send messages to one number—the business number—to reach the individual on whichever device he or she is available. This protects the employee’s personal mobile number while still maintaining ubiquitous access. Employees can set operating hours within the system to have calls and texts delivered to the phone during business hours, or go directly to voice mail after hours. In the event an employee is on vacation or leaves the company, unified contact numbers can be rerouted or redistributed to other individuals so that the valuable contact opportunity is not lost.
iCaaS systems also separate and protect personal and business data on employee-owned devices. Instead of device-native voice and messaging, iCaaS solutions typically operate with unified apps that traffic all communication through a single system—apps that IT can manage and govern. That means employees no longer have to foot the bill for work-related calls and data usage on their personal plans, and employer administrators can have full control over company data access on the device.
David Lee is vice president of product management at Ring Central.
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