BYOD: The Rise and Fall of Bring Your Own Device

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Your field techs are well equipped to handle any situation they come across – their vans are stocked with parts and tools. The trouble is, they spend half their time simply documenting the visits that they make. Pictures of the site, descriptions of the problem, inventory control forms, and the list goes on.

With so many moving pieces and so little time, it’s no wonder that the industry has started relying on mobile phones and tablets to streamline the process. Combined with the saturation of smartphones, it was only a matter of time until companies started relying on their employees to bring their own technology to the job site.

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The vast majority of Americans now have smartphones. The phones’ integrated keyboard, camera, and internet connection make it easy to fold the technology right into the everyday of field service. According to a report from the Aberdeen Group, 62% of industry leaders are taking advantage of the BYOD trend.

Has the BYOD trend come and gone, already?

Of course, eventually trends peak, and the BYOD movement was recently hit by a court case in California. The state’s Court of Appeals ruled that “when employees must use their personal cellphones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them.”

That ruling is limited to California, for now, but there’s certainly a chance that it would start to creep out into the wider world. While the costs might not seem like a concern, imagine having to examine the phone bills, for all the carriers, and all the plans of all your field techs to figure out how much you owe them each month. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

Instead of “bring your own device,” some companies are now shifting to “choose your own device” (CYOD) plans. These are similar to BYOD, but they go part of the way back toward a traditional technology offering.

The standard used to be that if an employee needed a piece of technology, the company simply issued it to them. With CYOD, companies can issue phones to employees, manage the plans centrally, but still give users some options to make them more comfortable and efficient.

CYOD programs are picking up steam, especially since they have monitoring capabilities that BYOD programs don’t. By controlling the device, you can track field techs as they move around their areas, limit the types of apps that they use, and update software easily.

The downside to a CYOD program is clearly the cost. You own the devices, you manage the contracts, and when things get broken, you can find yourself on the hook.

Even with all the negatives taken into account, Aberdeen’s device research has found that CYOD programs give power back to the company, and can make IT management much easier and more efficient.

So which system is going to be best for your company? As always, it depends.

How to choose between BYOD and CYOD

The biggest limiting factor in BYOD versus CYOD is going to be the size of your business. Due to the ownership factor, choose your own device plans have a high upfront cost for businesses. That can make it difficult for small and medium businesses to manage, unless the expense is planned well in the future.

Bring your own plans require more paperwork, though, and open companies up to more security risks. A frightening number of employees report that they believe they have no responsibility for company data on their devices. The diversity of threats also increases with a diverse set of devices. However, start-up cost for BYOD programs are minimal, at best.

Both programs have been shown to increase employee performance. A study from the Aberdeen group found that productivity increased under both BYOD and CYOD programs – 5% and 9%, respectively. That should be good news for any company thinking about freeing up their employees to use mobile devices in the field.

The change you need to make

The benefits of giving more control to your technicians are undeniable. Productivity increases make BYOD and CYOD programs a no-brainer, even if you have security concerns. While it may seem like CYOD is pushing its way into the hearts and minds of bigger companies, that’s no reason for a small business not to implement a BYOD plan.

Of course you have to train your employees on data safety, but that’s no different than it was ten years ago. Only now, instead of making sure they lock their trucks when there’s paperwork inside, you’re making sure they understand how to keep their phones safe.

The adoption of mobile technology in the field is going to continue to divide winners from losers over the next few years. Companies that struggle to change are going to fall behind nimble competition. If you want to be the business out in front, you should be on the path to mobile adoption today.

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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Andrew Marder

Andrew Marder is a former Capterra analyst.

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