Moving B(eyond) BYOD to Avoid BYO(Disaster)

There is often this notion that BYO whatever is always a good thing. You get to choose your food and drink, which means you are happy and the place you’re bringing it to is happy that you’re saving them the time and money they’d otherwise have to spot up front to provide that item to you. And with the PC revolution (“personal” computer, remember?) you can bring your personal computing device to work, whether it is a smartphone, tablet or other consumer device. Win-win, right? Not so much. At least not if the “D” in BYOD references “disaster” from a security, interoperability and just plain productivity perspective. Sorry IT…we know you’re probably struggling for some workers here that insist that accessing corporate tools from a smartphone, iMac, etc. will suffice. Tough job and we don’t envy you.

Don’t get me wrong: For some worker segments, BYOD may pan out just fine assuming that data security can be maintained. For example, Jennifer at our travel agency works from home on her own PC. She makes travel reservations for us, and she holds my frequent flyer numbers. I can only hope that she is careful with the numbers because we can’t monitor her every move all day long. Still, choosing a consumer mobile device probably will do for her.

But, for most in field service, the “D” in BYOD should just stand for “Doesn’t Make Sense” despite what some may advocate.That’s because front-line workers don’t have the luxury of a two-screen desktop setup with an office to spread out their peripherals. They need to be able to do everything in one place right now from the middle of nowhere. Do you want to make a Skype Video call while reviewing an inspection checklist at the same time on your smartphone? I don’t even want to try. But on a device that has the single goal of replacing the full PC experience in and out of the vehicle – such as Motion’s R12 rugged tablet – your workers can do both of those things simultaneously. And they can run your organization’s software, whether it’d be dispatch or whatever. I’m not trying to turn this into a Motion sales pitch, honestly. But I think this recent “tough test” review of Motion’s R12 tablet against an Apple iPad Air and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 by a neutral, third-party blogger validates my point: Field service organizations, such as utilities, natural resources, even government or healthcare, must move Beyond Bring Your Own Device (BBYOD). See the R12 vs. iPad vs. Galaxy Comparison Whitepaper (PDF).

Beyond Bring Your Own Device

Intel’s Alan Rose even echoed this sentiment, saying “Field workers are at the front lines of customer service ... and therefore need to be empowered to better serve customers. They require mobile applications that offer easier access to information that resides in corporate data centers. Previously, this “easy access” to data centers was limited to service center offices and some mobile applications and devices. Now, however, advances in tablet technology enable workers to take a mobile office with them everywhere they go.”

I can’t argue with that. But what I will reiterate is that the reason service organizations need to go BBYOD is because this tablet technology needed to create the full mobile office is only offered by a handful of devices and these devices don’t necessarily bear consumer-friendly brand names. Even if you give employees an allowance and set of minimum requirements to buy their own device, will they think to consider these more “enterprise” purpose-built tablets viable options when they are in fact the best suited option for the job? Probably not.

Your field workers need computers with access to sensitive corporate data, rugged design, mobile features like outdoor viewability, and custom (I like how the English say “bespoke” for “custom”) vehicle mounts. But typically those are mobile computers that you need to vet and select because, with the right mobile technology, you can support the productivity of your teams while protecting the company from everything from data security breaches to limiting corporate liability from distracted driving. For example, technology from Blank-It is available in Motion vehicle docks to enforce your policy for computer use by the driver. It detects when the vehicle is in motion, and blanks any applications that might be distracting. Some agencies blank everything; others might leave only a GPS navigation screen running.

Now, for those that decide to give in to BYOD, keep this in mind: Even BYOD hotspots now have controls in place to prevent free-for-alls and the consequences they bring. But that doesn’t always mean they can control everything. Neither can any organization that tries a BYOD approach. Even with the most significant investments to mitigate security breaches and minimize corporate liability, today’s top tech-savvy organizations can’t possibly have a way to support – or control – every device model that a worker could possibly choose to bring to work. Even if they could, hypothetically, lock down every business-related action taken on every device, what happens when that employee drops that device and the screen shatters like a mirror – rendering that device completely useless and that employee, well, useless. Until someone coughs up the money to replace the device…which opens a whole other can of worms regarding where device liability falls.

Plus, the reality is that your BYOD service workers aren’t going to risk their personal devices in a harsh environment. Instead they are going to risk organizational efficiency by using pen and paper. Or they’ll welcome your issued equipment. That’s why, despite the hype, the BYOD approach is already obsolete among many worldwide industries regardless of the hype.That’s my opinion…what’s yours? I want to hear if BYOD has worked for you in a field environment or if you will be going BBYOD this year.