What kinds of workers should be allowed to use their smartphones and tablets on the job, in a growing trend called "Bring Your Own Device," or BYOD? Opposing sides are forming about two distinct groups: hourly workers and salespeople.
For hourly workers, BYOD promises great productivity gains and significant cost savings, particularly for entry level employees who don't qualify for corporate-issued devices.
Suddenly, hourly workers can tap into the power of mobile technology—in the form of personal smartphones, tablets and laptops—to do their jobs, a freedom they never had before. This also comes at a huge discount for companies, because they don't have to pay for the devices themselves.
The problem is that BYOD blurs the line between work life and personal life. Hourly workers might be receiving emails, text messages and other work-related requests during after-hours and on weekends. While salaried workers don't punch a clock, hourly workers do.
So what happens when hourly workers are asked to work after they punch out but not get paid for it?
Expect a slew of employee lawsuits, the crux of the anti-BYOD-for-hourly-workers crowd. A lawsuit currently winding its way in a federal court in Chicago claims that the city owes some 200 police officers millions of dollars in overtime back pay. Officers allege they were pressured into answering work-related calls and emails over department-issued BlackBerrys during off hours. This problem only gets worse in a BYOD scenario.
Mobi Wireless Management, a software and services provider helping companies navigate mobile adoption, is seeing this play out among its healthcare customers. One hospital is allowing hourly workers to use BYOD phones, and then bracing for the impact. The hospital hoping mobile device management (MDM) software vendors will help them solve future conflicts.
With big rewards come high risks, and healthcare companies seem more willing to roll the dice than others. Mobi's non-healthcare customers aren't tackling hourly BYOD workers yet. So if you're thinking about bringing hourly workers into the BYOD fold, then you're very early to the game.
"It's a bit of growing pains," says Nanci Churchill, vice president of operations at Mobi. "Depending on the outcomes of these lawsuits, I think we'll see MDMs step up and try to increase some of their security capabilities and controls."
Indeed, MDMs may be able to solve the problem.
AirWatch, for instance, already lets companies set rules so that corporate email won't be sent out to certain BYOD smartphones during off-hours. As BYOD among hourly workers increases, MDM vendors will need to tweak location-based services and time-stamping functions to "cover the gap," Churchill says.
The question will be whether or not MDM will be able to corral work requests for BYOD hourly employees in a realistic way.
The polar opposite of the hourly worker is the always-on salesperson. These mobile workhorses operate relatively independently and at all hours of the day. Their personal and business lives often blend on golf courses, at restaurants and over weekends. BYOD feeds into their modus operandi.
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For instance, a salesperson depends on a smartphone that's chock full of productivity apps, from Salesforce Chatter to Evernote. If they find an app that they believe gives them a competitive advantage, it's a good bet they'll download it without checking with IT first. They need their phone with them at all times, and thus don't want to be burdened by carrying around two phones.
Perfect fit for BYOD?
"With the majority of our customers, their salespeople are still on the corporate [smartphone] program," Churchill says. "It's largely due to the fear of losing prospect contact information and customer contacts."
Another hurdle is the actual phone number a salesperson uses to call customers. It's a critical corporate asset. If customers get comfortable with a salesperson's personal number on his BYOD phone, then the asset goes with him when he leaves the company.
While VoIP, call forwarding and other services can enable a single phone to receive calls from multiple numbers, these are extra steps that many salespeople would prefer to avoid. Truth is, BYOD makes it easier for salespeople to accomplish what they've always wanted in the first place: take information with them when they leave.
"Salespeople are notorious for trying to take their Rolodex with them, and BYOD exacerbates the problem," Ben Tomhave, principal consultant at governance, risk and compliance vendor Lockpath, told me last summer. CIOs at Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise Conference and Expo, or CITE, last year also raised concerns about number ownership.
It's unclear how much longer Mobi's customers can stave off BYOD from entering the sales ranks. Most salespeople want to be at the front of any trend or fashion. They want to choose their own devices, which, in turn, may be used in presentations to customers.
"Salespeople are prime targets for device envy," Churchill says. "I do see the pendulum swinging towards BYOD for salespeople."
While every Mobi customer is doing some type of BYOD, it's important to note that most companies and employees are still merely dipping their toes despite the BYOD hype. This, of course, is typical of tech coverage; the media tends to report on technology's farthest edges.
Whether it's salespeople or hourly workers, most companies are still taking a wait-and-see-approach with BYOD.
"A lot of our customers are still piloting BYOD and different MDMs and not taking sweeping action across their program at this time," Churchill says.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple, BYOD and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn. Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org