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A strong BYOD policy should be SOP

For a few years now, stories, studies and surveys have been heralding the arrival of the next-generation workforce. Lately, though, the commentary is beginning to sound like trailers for 1960s horror flicks:

They’re here! They’re invading your cubicles and boardrooms! Their numbers are growing! They’re the Millennial generation, and they’re going to ruin you with their insatiable hunger for — using their personal mobile device for work! IT departments everywhere will be powerless!

Not so fast. As with any spooky tale, there is a way to stop the bogeyman. In this case, the silver bullet is a strong, updated bring your own device (BYOD) policy.

The thing is (as some IT leaders and analysts will tell you) when it comes to BYOD, these new-generation workers are really no different from their fellow employees and, indeed, employers. To paint their presence as a cause for concern makes them sound like impudent children. Are they any different from your CEO who insists on using her new iPad, or from the head of marketing who’s more comfortable with his ‘Droid than the company-issued BlackBerry?

It’s not a generational thing, it’s a societal thing. It’s the consumerization of IT — and that’s not about to change, so policies will have to: Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at San Francisco-based Lopez Research, has been sounding this particular alarm for more than a year.

“It started with senior management bringing in their own devices; now people are starting to realize it’s a big phenomenon,” Lopez said. “The new workforce is very accustomed to being tooled in their own environment; and what’s happened is, if you haven’t changed your policies, you could be losing out on a certain type of talent. … IT managers are saying, ‘We have to find a way to deal with this.'”

Those IT managers include Josh MacNeil, assistant director of technology services at the Whitman Hanson Regional School District in Massachusetts. He is very much in favor of letting people work in ways that allow them to be most productive. For the past 10 years, his district has allowed teachers 24/7 remote access. But dealing with devices will be a true challenge, he admits. He is creating a BYOD policy, gathering information from other school districts. The information exchange on the topic of BYOD has picked up pace noticeably in just the past couple of months, he said.

For organizations ready to take on the challenge of creating a policy, or working on updating their BYOD policy, Lopez Research suggests addressing 10 (seemingly) simple questions:

  • Who is eligible? What type of employees can access the company’s network?
  • What data and services can be accessed?
  • How will applications and services be delivered?
  • What does the company pay for?
  • Which operating systems and devices, and how many platforms will IT support?
  • How is the device secured?
  • How is the device managed? Will it be maintained over the air or through syncing with a desktop or Web application?
  • What support is provided?
  • What are the privacy issues?
  • What are the legal concerns?

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