BYOT: Hype or a hiring dealbreaker?

Bring Your Own Technology, or BYOT, can strike fear in the hearts of CIOs and security officers, who are split on whether the concept is an urban legend or the wave of the future. Regardless, the CIOs I’ve spoken with say it has not yet become a standard question that applicants ask. Sure, there are CEOs and salespeople who want to sneak tablets onto the network, but at this point, the roar of the consumers is really just a whisper.

Dave Kelble, vice president of technology with MobilexUSA, has been grappling with BYOT because he also serves as the company’s security officer. “There are parts of the organization on-boarded through acquisition where people use their own computer equipment as part of their job. We are looking to transition away from that for security and support reasons.”

MobilexUSA, a leading provider of bedside diagnostics, is a 3,000-person organization that Kelble expects could, through acquisitions and organic growth, grow to 5,000 by the end of 2011. The change in scale will be a challenge, and maintaining HIPAA compliance is imperative. Kelble says he has not received BYOT inquiries from potential new hires, though current employees, including field management, sales and IT, have been asking his group about it. “We are wrestling with how to get our arms around not allowing [employees] to BYOT, but helping them get their job done as effectively and securely as possible.”

Mary Sobiechowski is the CIO of Kantar Health, a healthcare-focused global consultancy and marketing insights company. She recalls only one instance when a new hire pushed hard for BYOT. The company didn’t give in for compliance reasons, but it did build a machine with the employee’s needs in mind.

An employee’s desire to have the latest equipment “is a reflection on the employee and the company,” she says. However, thanks to the threat of data insecurity, viruses and spyware, and the need to maintain Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, “we’ve had to change to a defensive posture.”

With Kantar Health expecting 5 percent employee growth in the next year, Sobiechowski is balancing that defensive stance against the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Her previous experience as CIO with an advertising firm taught her the importance of not locking down the creativity and productivity of employees. “Let’s be leaders in technology and work to bring solutions to employees,” she says.

Neil Brandmaier, CTO and SVP for XL Group, a $6 billion company that provides insurance, reinsurance and financial services worldwide, hasn’t received BYOT requests from interview candidates, but he’s excited about his company’s pioneering approach to the concept. It is planned to be a differentiator for hiring, to increase mobility and eventually to reduce hardware and support costs while improving the company’s brand.

XL Group’s BYOT program focuses on smartphones and Web access to the company’s e-mail system from any device today, but Brandmaier expects to include PCs in the XL network by 2011. “By offering BYOT for mobile devices, in theory 100 percent of XL employees can have mobile access to e-mail and eventually business applications. Today that number is just 33 percent.”

Preparation for incorporating employees’ technology included extending current security policies, augmenting intellectual property and purchasing additional outsourced support services.

XL Group is no stranger to regulatory compliance. Brandmaier says, “It’s a matter of trusting your employees to do the right thing in unison with good technology and policies.”

Will an organization supporting BYOT have a competitive edge as the economy turns around? Maybe. Will a high-value potential employee really refuse a job offer based on what type of tablet they’ll use? Probably not. Keep BYOT in perspective, and then decide if it’s worth the risk.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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