Bring your own device (BYOD) is a hot topic with large enterprises, which are realizing the value of employees using their personal devices for work. But for small businesses, BYOD is old hat. Bound by budgetary and IT constraints, small businesses have long recognized BYOD's benefits and have been encouraging their employees to use their personal devices to check email and manage work on the go for years. Now, with the plethora of business applications and mobile devices available, small businesses are moving toward more formal BYOD programs to leverage their employees' enthusiasm for mobile.
According to Forrester Research Inc. in its report "Building the Business Case for a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Program," employees personally select 70% of tablets used for work, and 67% of employees using smartphones for work have personally selected the smartphone. The Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm reports that 54% of enterprises in North America and Europe are implementing formal BYOD policies in response to these trends.
While most BYOD habits begin with checking email, BYOD benefits and usage have quickly expanded to include expense reporting, contacts and calendaring, according to Michele Pelino, a principal analyst at Forrester and author of the report. Other applications might include real-time updates for field service and sales professionals.
"The applications you might have for them are specific to a role," Pelino said. "Then there are other things like expense management and time management that can be applicable across various roles."
Mobility becomes strategic for small businesses
The rise of new applications has resulted in mobility becoming a strategic initiative for small businesses. According to research from Techaisle LLC, 13% percent of SMBs view mobility as strategic to their businesses; 49% have enabled mobility in their businesses. Add in the 19% of SMB fence-sitters that view mobility as a convenience to their business, and fully 81% of SMBs are reaping the benefits of mobility, whether they want to or not.
In the U.S., 61% of small businesses allow their employees to bring their own devices, according to Anurag Agrawal, CEO and industry analyst at the San Jose, Calif.-based market research and industry analyst firm. "That is not by design, planned or unplanned. It is a matter of convenience," he said.
However, many of these SMBs don't have formal policies and procedures in place, or even know what the policies should be, Agrawal said. Often, they turn to their channel partners and consultants for advice, but the channel partners and consultants don't always have the answer. "That creates a huge gap, and those channel partners who know about BYOD start to push technology such as virtualization, which some SMBs are not ready for yet," he said.
Given BYOD benefits, SMBs greet devices with open arms
Small businesses typically have open and agile BYOD policies and support as many devices as possible, according to Michael Cisek, a research director focusing on SMB infrastructure and operations at Stamford, Conn.-based analyst firm Gartner Inc. To manage them, smaller-sized businesses with up to 99 employees may purchase a cloud-based mobile device management package, while larger enterprises may try to run master data management themselves, he said.
The trick for small businesses is to balance the risk of opening the door to mobility with the benefits of BYOD, Cisek said. Part of the risk may involve the cost of managing the devices. "For a midsize business, even $5 to $6 per device per month can be a lot of money," he said. That leads businesses to come up with alternate solutions, like limiting functionality and access to company information, he added.