Bring Your Own Device

Hey, cool! My job is BYOD!

August 7, 2013: 12:53 PM ET

Bring your own device to the office is becoming the norm. Can't employees and IT departments just get along? (Maybe at the bar after work.)

By Varun Nayar

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FORTUNE -- Seems like some people can't bear to part with their smartphones. According to a recent study by mobile solutions company Jumio Inc. -- and conducted by market research firm Harris Interactive -- 72% of smartphone users in the U.S. admit to being at least five feet away from their devices most of the time, and even taking them to unusual places like the shower (12%) and between the sheets (9%).

Seriously?

And then of course there's work, where employees have begun using their own devices for on-the-job purposes, allowing them to send personal texts ("Meet U at McGritty's @ 6!") alongside work emails -- blending the personal and the professional onto a single device.

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McKinsey reports that some 80% of the smartphones used at work are employee-owned. Companies are adapting -- getting rid of exclusively workplace devices (like the BlackBerry (BBRY)) and designing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies to better govern the habits of employees who will inevitably be on their own phone -- and personally and professionally connected -- around the clock.

Marc Barach, chief marketing and strategy officer of Jumio Inc., says that we're currently in the "explosion phase" with smartphones, where "all playing fields are being tested out;" consumers are constantly experimenting with different styles of mobile hardware and software. By jumping on the BYOD bandwagon, companies can actually improve productivity, through lower costs, potential for employees to work outside the regular company schedule, and an overall increase in employee morale and convenience. Not surprisingly, Unisys reports that a significant number of jobseekers view an organization more positively if it supports their device.

Of course, there's a downside to BYOD from the corporate perspective, the most serious of which are security breaches. McKinsey reports that nearly 90% of employees use personal devices to do 25% of the work they once did on PCs. The fact that these devices can retain work-related information and then be taken home for personal use is where things start to get complicated -- when important corporate data trickles outside a company's IT wall. Added to that is the possibility of phones being lost or stolen. Never mind snooping: The Jumio study says some 29% of American smartphone users admit to noseying in on someone else's phone. And only half of employees who use their personal devices at work have even signed a policy that governs that behavior. Makes you wonder just how secure this new world is going to be.

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Michael Lin, vice president of Symantec Mobility Solutions, is optimistic: "We believe it's possible to maintain security while embracing BYOD." Lin points to something called Mobile Application Management, or MAM, which are technologies that segregate enterprise applications and data from user-owned information.

Lin acknowledges that "there's really no one-size-fits-all BYOD strategy," and that all companies have somewhat different needs -- while some may focus primarily on the security issues with common personal-work devices (smartphones and tablets included), others may want to focus on setting a cost-sharing plan for the device. And before any company adopts a BYOD policy, it should be ready for the consequences: "A BYOD policy is only as good as a company's ability to enforce it," says Lin.

Makes sense. (C U at McGritty's!)

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