The Big Question: Is a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scheme a good idea?

Charles Black, chief executive officer, Nasstar:

Allowing employees to bring their own devices to use at work is increasingly popular. It is a great development for employees, and it is also a great development for employers.

Employees like it because they prefer their own devices. It is easy to understand why. First, these are their own devices, which they have chosen themselves and already know how to use. Second, it is more convenient for employees to use them when away from the workplace, rather than lugging an alternative work-issued device around.

It is great for employers, too. Our poll last month of 300 small to medium-sized firms found that employees see bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes as a strong workplace benefit and they regard employers that allow them to do this as progressive.

In short, BYOD makes for happier staff and improved workplace morale. The research was reviewed by organisational psychologist Cary Cooper, who felt that allowing BYOD as an option showed that employers were prepared to be flexible and were not battling the wishes of the majority. He feels this is an intrinsically better way to manage staff.

There is another benefit for employers: they no longer have the expense and headache of providing devices. Some may offer employees an allowance towards their chosen device, while others emphasise BYOD as a perk of a forward-thinking employer.

Chris Hewertson, chief information officer, Colt Technology Services:

When looked at on its own, the benefits of BYOD [schemes] to an employer can seem limited and may even be considered a dis-benefit after factoring in the increased levels of security, IT operations and support needed to effectively enable it.

However, when looked at from the wider perspective of employee choice, it enhances integrative working practices that support flexibility around where to work and when to work by adding the third option of what to use.

Colt offers a BYOD scheme to more than 2,000 employees in 13 countries. This investment is already benefiting the company by helping to attract and retain talent, avoiding IT hardware costs, reducing IT maintenance costs, and supporting business continuity planning.

From an employee perspective, the main benefit relates to employees now having the ability to access Colt services on their own preferred brand of laptop and operating system, giving them the freedom to install and manage their own applications, but at the same time remaining within our corporate security and acceptable use policies.

Allowing access to corporate services on personal devices also reduces the necessity for people to carry laptops to and from work because they can now easily access the services on their own PCs at home, something many of our employees are grateful for.

For many of our employees, BYOD is becoming the norm.

John Laity, independent BYOD consultant:

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and bring-your-own-computer (BYOC) schemes are concepts that have grown out of the desktop virtualisation market. They are all part of what is seen as the consumerisation of IT.

Desktop virtualisation splits the computer or device in two, providing a secure server or cloud-based desktop for work, leaving the user the rest of the device for non-secure and/or personal use.

This basically means that modern IT infrastructures can reduce the need to have high-end computers on the majority of employees’ desks at work.

BYOD is the next logical step from this, but it is not a new concept. Sun Microsystems promoted ‘the network is the computer’ in the 1980s. However, it is the reduction of device cost and massive adoption of technology that has made ‘the consumerisation of IT’ a reality for today.

So, while employers are procuring laptops, most employees are likely to have access to an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, iPad, iMac, PC, AppleTV, NetTV, Sony Vaio, Playstation, XBox or iPod.

Hence the logic behind BYOD: why pay to provide something at work when the employee already has something, potentially better, at home?

The key to a great BYOD strategy is to manage cultural change for an organisation, but it is not a workplace benefit.

Have your say by searching for the EmployeeBenefits group on LinkedIn