BYOD: Another Sign of the Postdigital Times

BYOD: Another Sign of the Postdigital Times Posted by Rob Underwood on September 5, 2012

We’ve talked about the postdigital enterprise here on the blog before—how people and their technology tools are becoming increasingly interconnected and how five disruptive forces (social, mobility, analytics, cloud and cyber intelligence) are converging to reshape the marketplace and the expectations of customers and employees. It’s relevant here because so much of what we’re seeing can have an impact on HR. For example, our recent Deloitte study, Devices, Consumption and the Digital Landscape, looks at trends in technology, telecommunications and media. Though not a strictly “HR study,” what it reveals has some decidedly HR-related implications.

Consider the trend of “BYOD”—Bring Your Own Device. The study showed that 59 percent of tablet users in businesses bought their tablets themselves. So, people are buying devices and using them at work — a practice that might raise alarms in the IT department, but what does this mean for HR? It’s relevant—and interesting— because of how this technology trend intersects with other workplace and workforce trends. For example:

  • The increasingly flexible workforce. BYOD ties nicely to the trend of “free agency,” which refers to more and more workers acting as consultants or contractors to multiple companies rather than spending their careers at one place. In the workplace of the future, it could be that companies move from issuing employees a PC, laptop and phone to a new model more about granting employees (whether contract or full-time) rights to use their own equipment to access the company’s data and network. Perhaps this prompts a new policy/perk to offer employees a yearly “IT allowance” or discount to purchase their own equipment, which in turn becomes a recruiting/retention incentive.
  • The “always on” employee. BYOD also meshes with the way work and working has evolved. The boundaries between work time and personal time have grown much less clear—many people can’t “turn off” their jobs at 5:00 p.m. Nor do most workers fully set aside their personal lives from 9:00 to 5:00. Having devices that easily travel and that can manage a variety of professional and personal tasks supports this new reality. While our study showed that half (54 percent) of tablet owners are currently using their device in the workplace, comparatively few (7 percent) use it solely for work.
  • The rise of workplace social media. Tablets and other portable devices also expand the availability of internal social media networks that allow employees to connect and share with one another across geographies. We also see them being used in wider, though still controlled, networks that include, say, employees, vendors, suppliers, customers and alliance partners. The idea is that widening the net, so to speak, increases the opportunities for cross-organizational learning and sharing of knowledge, ideas and leading practices and also supports innovation.

Even with the BYOD trend on the rise, the study shows that tablets are still first and foremost a personal use device. Tablets are also primarily used in fixed locations (such as home or work) rather than when mobile. I expect this to change, though. Considering that we found nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the employees who are not currently using a tablet at work wish they could do so, we expect the number of people using their tablet for both personal and work purposes to increase quickly over the next 12 months. And as new apps are developed that take advantages of services such as GPS, RFID and NFC (Near Field Communication), the utility of a tablet as a mobile device is also expected to rise.

Here at Deloitte, many employees bring their personal tablets to work and use them for both professional and personal applications. Our IT department offers basic support to help people get set up with email and such, but generally users are on their own. What about where you work? Where does your organization stand on the notion of BYOD? And who “owns” this policy? Weigh in with your poll response and comments, please.

Rob Underwood Rob Underwood serves as the National Senior Sector Specialist for Deloitte. In this role, Rob works to develop and refine Deloitte’s Media & Entertainment offering and market strategy across Deloitte’s distinct U.S. businesses (Consulting, Audit & Enterprise Risk, Financial Advisory and Tax). You can follow him on Twitter @brooklynrob.

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