How to Develop and Implement an Effective Bring Your Own Device Policy
A hotly debated topic of discussion now for many years, choosing whether to implement Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been a dilemma for business owners since its inception. With numerous upsides and just as many pitfalls, the discussion had mostly started to settle in opposition to BYOD when the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic hit. Suddenly, with even the most stubborn business leaders relying on personal devices to survive the rush to equip employees for remote work, a resurgence of the BYOD trend emerged.
Now, with remote work the norm and tech-savvy Gen Z employees entering the workforce expecting to use personal devices they feel comfortable with, establishing safe and effective BYOD policies has become a necessity for most businesses. Below, we’ll break down everything you need to know to develop and implement a BYOD policy without bogging down your operations or exposing yourself to unnecessary cybersecurity risks.
What is Bring Your Own Device?
Bring Your Own Device is a mobile device management policy (and ongoing trend) that permits employees to use their personal mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones rather than use company issued devices for various work-related activities.
By embracing a BYOD policy, companies agree to allow users to access company network, applications, emails and corporate data, from their personal mobile devices and understand that an IT department will not centrally manage those BYOD devices.
What are the Benefits of BYOD?
Implementing BYOD policies within your organization can be beneficial to your company in several ways, including:
By allowing employees to use a BYOD device, businesses can eliminate the need to purchase and maintain large amounts of hardware and software. In addition, in a BYOD setting, employees will typically cover the cost of their own data plans.
Customization and Comfort
With BYOD, employees can choose the device they feel most comfortable using and personalize their device settings as they see fit to create the most comfortable and efficient workflow possible.
Faster Onboarding and Offboarding
Because they will provide their own devices, your IT department is now freed from having to procure and prepare hardware and software for new employees when they join the company. When employees leave an organization, IT also no longer needs to account for, retrieve, and wipe company-owned devices; they simply revoke access and move on.
Increased Employee Satisfaction
Generally speaking, employees who choose their devices feel trusted by their employer. They can also better balance work-life responsibilities as they can switch easily between the two on the same device. It also becomes easier for your company to accommodate requests to work remotely. All of this helps employees feel more appreciated and happier.
Attracting New Talent
As the workforce becomes younger and more technology-savvy, top talent entering the job market will likely be looking to work for companies that provide them the flexibility to use the technology they prefer. A BYOD policy helps demonstrate to prospects that you have a modern outlook on technology decisions.
Because employees are familiar with their own devices and software, the need for extensive training is significantly reduced during onboarding. This allows them to get up and running faster and need less guidance navigating the tech solutions they use daily.
Employees who use their personal devices for work can stay connected and are more responsive even outside of work hours. As long as work-life balance is respected, with a BYOD policy, they will be more responsive and efficient, reducing delays and improving productivity.
What are the Disadvantages of BYOD policies?
Below are several of the most common challenges companies face. How many of these BYOD security issues directly apply to your business will vary depending on the industry you’re in and the specific way your organization operates:
BYOD security is critical. Employee owned devices may represent significant data security risks because they may not protect their own devices the same way you would safeguard corporate devices. Potential data breaches can happen if employees access company networks while using weak passwords, outdated software, connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, or downloading apps from untrustworthy sources.
With your employees using a variety of personally owned devices, it will become more challenging for IT to support them with technical assistance should they need it. To troubleshoot all the various combinations of employee devices and Operating Systems (OS), your IT department will need to have a wide array of expertise and be able to handle the added workload.
Compatibility issues could also arise when providing your own solutions or software, as these may not work seamlessly on every employee’s OS or device. If unresolved, this could affect productivity and, in turn, employee satisfaction.
Employees accessing corporate data from their personal devices are more likely to end up storing sensitive data on their devices, blurring the line between employee and company data. This becomes especially problematic if your data contains sensitive proprietary or personally identifiable information (PII).
Companies operating in regulated industries could face challenges attempting to comply with a BYOD setup. Monitoring and documenting compliance across various mobile devices can be demanding.
When you allow different personal devices using different solutions to access your data from various locations, you inevitably add complexity to your operation. The lack of uniformity means you must develop BYOD policy best practices that can accommodate this added complexity without losing oversight into who is accessing company network and confidential data and from where.
How to Develop Your Brink Your Own Device Policy
When you provide the device, you control where it goes and how it’s used. Without this control, you’ll need strong guidelines to balance this newfound flexibility with the need to mitigate the added risk. These core aspects can help you do so and are crucial to include when developing your company’s Bring Your Own Device policy.
Acceptable Use Policy
Just because users can move quickly between personal and work functions on the same mobile device doesn’t mean they don’t need to “behave” professionally when switching to work-related tasks and accessing company data. So, organizations should clearly outline and document the behaviors that are considered inappropriate when in “work mode.” Your security measures could include defining what apps employees can download, the types of Wi-Fi networks that can be used to access company data, and clearly stating employees’ responsibilities in keeping said data safe.
Company Rights on Personal Devices
Since the mobile devices your employees use are not yours, defining your rights over the personal devices will also be crucial. To do this, you should clearly state what authority the employee agrees to allow you to have. Consider including the right to require Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), the right to require cooperation with your IT department, and the right to monitor work-related activities. Emphasize that you also reserve the right to update your BYOD policy as trends change or technology advances.
Personal Device Control
You should also clearly define what aspects of the mobile device your company can directly control. For example, introducing the right to wipe company data if employees leave, or if their personal device is stolen or lost. Essentially, outline what steps you can take to intervene if an employee falls out of line with your acceptable use policies or fails to adhere to industry compliance requirements.
Data Transfer and Encryption Policy
Specify your requirements for transferring data between company resources and personal devices. Consider requiring that these transfers are encrypted using vetted and approved applications or encryption solutions like virtual private networks (VPNs).
Require solid and unique passwords and encourage or require password managers. Clearly define all the aspects of solid password management that employees should adhere to, such as updating passwords regularly and not reusing them.
Robust Communications Platform
Finally, ensure your employees get the message by establishing a clear plan for communicating all these policies. Develop HR manuals, videos, training, and legal documentation for onboarding new employees and notifying existing ones about policy changes. Create multiple channels such as e-mail, newsletters, and meetings to keep everyone informed. Ensure that you also clearly communicate the consequences for violations and create documentation with an employee acknowledgment section requiring a signature.
How to Implement Your Bring Your Own Device Policy
Once you’ve developed how you want BYOD to work within your organization, it’s time to put it into practice and make your policy a reality. Here’s where to start:
Define the Scope
Remember that you reserve the right to decide where Bring Your Own Device fits within your organization. If it is too complex or risky, BYOD doesn’t have to be across the board – you can choose by department or decide which types of employees can be accommodated. For example, 99% of sales CRM systems are online. As long as you have the proper protections in place, BYOD makes sense and is easier to manage for this department.
Test and Evaluate
There is also no need to rush in full-on. To ensure a smooth implementation, you can conduct pilot tests of your policy with small groups of employees to identify issues and areas for improvement before moving forward. Then, as you iron out the kinks, you can roll out in phases by department or type of employee.
Consider Tools and Solutions
As BYOD has grown in popularity, so too has the number of tech solutions that can assist you in managing the complexities. Two notable technologies include Zero Trust networking solutions (such as Cytracom) that allow you to remotely control personal devices when they access corporate network, and Mobile Device Management tools (such as Miradore) that provide remote auditing, updating, diagnosis, and troubleshooting.
Train and Educate
Just telling your employees to abide by your policy may be effective, but training them to recognize the cybersecurity threats you’re attempting to avoid is a more sound strategy. By offering regular cybersecurity training sessions, providing relevant resources, and encouraging employees to report security concerns, you can create a culture of proactive cybersecurity awareness that everyone can understand and participate in.
Monitor and Support
Unfortunately, post-rollout is still no time to let your guard down. You’ll want to continuously monitor your implementation to evaluate its effectiveness and see how your staff responds. Establishing a support system to assist employees as they work through technical difficulties or answer questions about the new policy can help ease the transition.
Consider Adding Expert Assistance
If the complexity of implementing BYOD seems overwhelming, that is not unusual. For companies that cannot afford massive IT departments, managing and implementing a sophisticated Bring Your Own Device policy is not a do-it-yourself job. As a result, many business leaders partner with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) to provide expertise, technical assessments, and troubleshooting as needed. Partnering with an MSP is one of the best ways to gain expert insight and guidance to develop and implement a BYOD policy tailored to your specific organizational needs.
Whether you’re currently attempting to develop a Bring Your Own Device policy or considering it as a future initiative, it takes careful assessment of how you can maximize the benefits of BYOD while minimizing the risks. If you’re struggling to strike the right balance, contact me at email@example.com.