In order to maximize the effectiveness of an enterprise mobility push for warehouse environments, a facilities manager may consider a bring your own device (BYOD) policy as the best option. However, before utilizing BYOD, companies should first consider some common pitfalls and take steps to address them.
In the past, if a company wanted to realize all of the benefits that could be had from mobile barcode scanner software, it would need to acquire new hardware. To void this extra cost, businesses are now actively encouraging employees to use the mobile devices they already own instead. Considering that 56 percent of American adults now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center, facilitating the introduction of employee-owned hardware into warehouse environments can be the natural next step.
As mobile devices become more popular, so too do BYOD policies. For example, Forrester Research reported that approximately 67 percent of information workers in Europe and North America now use their own tablets or smartphones for accomplishing mission-critical tasks.
Addressing BYOD policy pitfalls
With a BYOD policy in place, a warehouse manager can more cost-effectively use solutions such as mobile inventory management software and other automated data collection systems without having to incur high hardware procurement costs. However, BYOD is not without its faults. In particular, many organizations worry about employees using unsecure devices to access sensitive information, and as such security-related concerns have hampered the introduction of personal mobile devices in a number of work settings.
Still, just because a BYOD policy has the potential to cause problems does not mean that it is not a worthwhile endeavor to pursue. Rather, businesses need to be adequately prepared for the shift, and organizations of all sizes can do that by keeping these five points in mind during the implementation process:
- Have a good reason for BYOD: Adopting a bring your own device policy has become a trendy option for businesses of late, but if that is the only reason for allowing personal devices, then such an effort is bound to yield a negative return on investment. Before even embarking on the planning phase, companies should first come up with a thorough use case in regard to why exactly BYOD is helpful and why it is better than alternative arrangements, according to Forrester analyst Michele Pelino.
- Develop a thorough implementation process: As is the case with anything in an enterprise environment, nothing is as simple as it first may seem. The introduction of any new process or technology will likely create a number of new problems, from end users not knowing the proper protocol to disparate systems not linking up correctly. Since a BYOD policy could potentially lead to the introduction of up to thousands of new endpoints into a warehouse setting, facilities managers need to first develop a plan for how the transition period will go in order to ensure that the organization will actually find BYOD to be helpful, InformationWeek contributor Debra Donston-Miller wrote in a recent article.
- Keep diversity in mind: One of the biggest variables to consider with BYOD, according to Donston-Miller, is hardware and software diversity. If left unchecked, BYOD introduces a multitude of different devices and software configurations that IT teams have no way of controlling or overseeing. For example, the mobile supply chain management software used may not be optimized for every device or may be negatively affected by an app one end user has. As such, companies may want to limit the types of devices that can be be introduced to the enterprise ecosystem, or at least try to implement vendor-neutral solutions.
- Prepare support processes accordingly: Considering the uniformity of software and hardware found in enterprises operating using legacy IT configurations, tech support teams are likely ill-equipped to deal with BYOD. Donston-Miller wrote that before a BYOD policy can be successfully implemented, a company should provide additional training opportunities to support staff members to make sure that team is capable of supporting the many mobile devices accessing shared resources.
- Think about the future: A decade ago, BlackBerry dominated the then fledgling smartphone market and the iPad had yet to be invented. In that time, mobile devices have dramatically changed IT-related conversations. Should Moore's law continue to hold, technology will likely change even more rapidly in the coming years. As such, a BYOD policy today may be totally worthless five years from now. Although no business can accurately predict the future, Pelino recommended creating a forward-thinking BYOD policy that takes into account the problems of today while also looking to address issues that may crop up in the following months and decades.
BYOD presents enterprises with a number of problems, but it can yield innumerable successes if implemented properly and with foresight.