At PDMS we have never stopped our staff using the company's computers (originally desktops and now laptops throughout) for personal use.
We're keen for our staff to have a great work/life balance and it's always been seen as counter-productive to stop our staff being able to manage both, during office hours, and make use of the company's assets outside of hours.
We don't block social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Our staff are our number one asset, and also our number one ambassadors. We encourage them to tell everyone about the work that we're undertaking, the new technologies that we're dealing with, and the new trends within the IT business as a whole.
Many years ago, at a corporate level, we standardised the hardware environments that we provide to our staff. This was very appropriate at the time, with maintainability, security and compatibility being our key requirements. However, now that so many of our line-of-business systems are online, needing little more than a browser to access them, we've started to become less dependent on specific devices. In some areas of the business we've seen that our standardisation itself is counterproductive - why does our Managing Director need a similar if not the same computer as one of our Lead Developers?
Many members of staff have their own personal hardware; computers at home, iPads, tablets, various smartphones, the list is endless. Our staff have consciously decided upon these technologies, and they want to use them to bring themselves closer to their work environment - so why wouldn't we let them. So we've invested in time and technology to allow our staff to use these devices with the online systems and services that we use to run our business.
So you could say we are already some way ahead of a workplace trend which is really gaining traction at the moment - Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT).
BYOT essentially means that staff can chose what hardware they would like to use at work - everything from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets. Because they choose it, very often the hardware they choose is based on what they like to use (along with the type of role they have and dependent on the software they use day to day), or have been using outside the office.
Recent surveys show that BYOT is gaining momentum, although different organisations have different attitudes to the benefits and risks it introduces. A survey covering 17 countries by business technology company Avanade found that 88% of executives said employees were using their own personal computing technologies for business purposes. Absolute Software found that 64% of IT managers surveyed thought it was too risky to let personal devices be integrated into the business network. However 52% of companies allowed some form of access. Another survey by Cisco found that although 48% said their company would never authorise employees to bring their own devices, 57% agreed that some employees use personal devices without consent.
As with most technological mind-set changes, BYOT has varying degrees of implementation. Some companies are merely reacting to feedback from staff about the hardware they like to use. Others are allowing staff to buy the technology they use - even though it's purchased by the company it remains the individual's property when they no longer work for the company. There are a range of approaches, each with different benefits and obstacles to the users and the corporate IT department.
Three major areas of consideration that we have had are as follow:
1. Personal devices are getting smarter, why shouldn't we use them at work?
The majority of our staff have devices that are cutting edge, and will outperform the company's corporate personal devices. We've found that members of staff primarily dealing in communications (email, instant messaging, telephone) are relatively easily converted across to the BYOT model. All these services are bundled into the vast majority of modern devices and we can utilise them out of the box. It makes vast amounts of sense to leverage the power and features of these devices.
2. Preparing the core systems.
We needed to make sure that the core applications that staff use are accessible from various devices. This is being achieved by implementation of purely browser based applications, and/or remote connectivity to infrastructure within the company's infrastructural real estate. Once a company has the use of the internet and has invested in browser-based applications that are available online, all the time - the hardware that's used to connect to these applications starts to become irrelevant.
3. Security is paramount, how can we mitigate risk?
Personal devices are able to store and do more with corporate data, but the anti-malware market for personal devices lags behind other hardware. Hacking into personal devices is appealing to hackers, and employees need to understand the security implications of connectivity and the data that is being transferred between devices. We're fortunate to have IT savvy staff, and have also invested in ensuring that our centralised systems are themselves secure.
At PDMS, we are yet to get to the point where staff members are bringing their own workstations into the office. Although in this current wave of change, I can certainly see key members of staff able to work entirely from their own personal devices - I'm not far off myself.