Employee-owned devices surging for US companies, survey shows

Employee-owned devices surging for US companies, survey shows

Big companies, even those with demanding security needs, are nonetheless allowing employees to use personally owned smartphones and tablets for work, according to a new survey. And increasingly, it is employees and not the companies that are bearing the costs -- for the devices, and cellular data plans.

But these enterprises also are actively creating security and management policies and procedures to support employee-owned devices, often dubbed "bring your own device" or BYOD.

BACKGROUND: IT groups reveal their best enterprise tablet tricks

About 100 companies were included in the survey, all customers of Good Technology, a Sunnyvale, Calif., software vendor that offers applications for mobile enterprise device management, messaging and secure access to corporate data. The online survey, with about 20 questions, was aimed specifically at how companies are handling the bring-your-own-device trend. Overall, nearly three-quarters say they are supporting employee-owned devices.

A summary of the results:

+ Even highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, are supporting employee-owned devices. Retailers, wholesalers and government agencies are somewhat less likely to do so.

+ In the case of companies with more than 10,000 employees, 35% support this trend; 60% of those with more than 5,000 employees do so; and 80% of companies with more than 2,000 employees do so.

+ Among companies that do, half of them are requiring employees to foot the bill, according to the Good survey. Forty-five percent offer employees a stipend or "expense back" option to pay for at least some of these costs. Good found that companies with generous stipends "have the highest rate of employees using mobile devices" compared to those offering an expense-back option or no reimbursement at all.

+ Surprisingly, almost half of the respondents -- 45% -- are rolling out employee device support programs in multiple countries, despite the complexity of differing privacy laws and the potential of high roaming costs.

The full report, a 13-page PDF file, is available online.

While 72% already support BYOD, another 19% say they are either planning to do so in six to 12 months are or considering it but don't yet have a definite schedule.

Only 9% are not planning employee device support. For this group, the most common reasons cited for not doing so were human resource/legal policies or security concerns.

The companies in the sample were asked if they had to adjust their current corporate policies to accommodate employee-owned hardware. Most of them -- 77% -- said yes, while 23% said they no.

One in four of the respondents used a stipend program; another 20% let employees file expense reports for mobile services costs, almost always with prior management approval and with a fixed cap on total expenses. The remaining 60% of respondents required "employees to cover all device and service plan costs, with typical voice and data plans costing $80 per month," according to Good.

This is a dramatic change from just a few years ago, when mobile devices in the enterprise were typically BlackBerries from Research in Motion, bought, owned, issued and fully controlled by the enterprise for mobile email. The change represents a cost-shifting, from the company to its employees for work-related mobile technology. But according to Good, "Those employees are readily accepting this approach, if it allows them to use the smartphones and tablets they already own and love."

The cost shifting can reap significant savings: Of the respondents with BYOD programs, 77% have been able to cut the percentage of company–owned devices to 60% or less; half have been able to slash this to 20% or less.

Employee-owned devices, especially when even partially reimbursed or expensed, increase the percentage of workers making use of mobile technology. Good found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of the companies with BYOD support have 21%-40% or more "mobilized" employees. This jumps to 74% for those companies that combine BYOD support with a stipend program. By contrast, of companies lacking a BYOD campaign, 57% say they have 21%–40% or more of their users mobilized.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: Email: Blog RSS feed:

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