Bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, is a movement blurring the line between work and personal life. After all, BYOD is all about employees using personal smartphones and tablets for business purposes. So does this mean people check Facebook when they should be working or read job-related emails on weekends?
In other words, does BYOD help or hinder worker productivity?
The easy answer, of course, is both. But CIOs need to tip the scales toward worker performance gains if they're going to endorse a BYOD program, especially since many poorly managed mobile BYOD programs end up costing more than company-owned device programs.
Other CIOs may not have much of a choice with BYOD programs that act as a kind of rallying cry for people to demand certain tech gadgets at work. "The pressure on IT is intense," says Aberdeen Group analyst Andrew Borg. "The implied threat is, 'Give me what I know I can have, or I'll self-provision.'"
The silver lining, though, is that BYOD really does lead to net worker productivity gains.
Consider this likely scenario: A worker wants to turn in her corporate-owned BlackBerry in favor of her personal iPhone. She will enthusiastically personalize her iPhone with productivity tools and apps that deliver up-to-the-minute data, as opposed to the less-customizable BlackBerry.
In turn, the personal iPhone will accelerate her responsiveness.
"They are also more likely to have their device with them at all times, not only during work hours, which means they are more accessible and in-touch," Borg says.
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BYOD also helps in recruitment and getting new hires up to speed quickly. Mobile devices have become very personal, like a wallet or purse, and so potential employees will want to work at a company that lets them use their personal devices. Since they are already familiar with, say, the iPhone, they don't need to learn the acrobatics and shortcuts of the BlackBerry.
"The way to give the greatest choice is through a BYOD program," Brandon Hampton, a founding director of Mobi Wireless Management, a software and services provider advising Fortune 100 companies on wireless strategies, told CIO.com. "This can be good for industries that are very competitive for the brightest employees, such as law firms. It's an extra perk."
But CIOs prefer quantitative metrics over qualitative hearsay, and clear-cut BYOD performance gains are somewhat elusive.
Aberdeen suggests looking at BYOD productivity gains in terms of how new devices can improve workflow efficiencies. "Although the temptation is to measure specific processes and estimate the number of minutes shaved off routine activity, it's advisable to look at process workflows that would otherwise have long bottlenecks without ubiquitous mobile access," Borg says.
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The iPad, a popular candidate for inclusion in BYOD programs, recently changed the way Eaton Corp., a 100-year-old hydraulics maker, sold its products, basically upending the sales workflow process. CIO Justin Kershaw measures iPad worker productivity gains by monitoring order intake rate and length of sales cycle, from opportunity to quote to the actual order.
"That used to take days and weeks in the legacy process, and now we're down to hours and minutes," Kershaw says.
Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Consumerization of IT for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at email@example.com