Cutting edge technology is everywhere. Just look at the iPhone 5. Announced on 12 September, it’ll be a common sight before you know it.

Then there are tablet computers, becoming more popular among home users. Not to mention, of course, the not-so-humble laptop, which is now thinner, lighter and more powerful than ever.

Everyone has powerful gadgets

This relentless progress is putting convenient gadgets in the hands of ordinary people. They’re used to having a smart phone that just works when they need it. They’re used to grabbing their tablet to check their email in seconds.

Some of these people probably work in your business. At home, they’re accustomed to technology that is quick and easy to use. Often, their own devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – are more advanced than those they get given at work.

A blurred line

The line between home and work technology is blurring. People bring smart phones into the office and take company laptops home. They check Facebook on their lunch hour and send work emails in the evening.

In this climate, there’s a growing trend of people using their own technology for work. For instance, if their tablet computer is better for travelling than the heavy laptop you’ve given them for work, then the laptop will get left behind.

It’s called BYOD

This trend is called ‘bring your own device’, or BYOD for short. It’s happening in companies of all sizes.

Back in 2010, research suggested that over half of UK employees had a personal device they used for work. Earlier this year, another piece of research found that 57% of IT managers reckoned at least some of their employees were using personal devices at work.

The chances are good that your staff are using their personal devices for work, even if you’ve told them not to. Can you stop them? Probably not. Is it a good idea to encourage BYOD? Well, it just might be.

Benefits of BYOD

At first glance, BYOD looks like a security and support nightmare. How can you keep tabs on business data with employees accessing it in different ways? How can you provide help if everyone has a different laptop and smart phone?

However, the experiences of other companies suggest these problems are not insurmountable. In fact, the benefits may well outweigh the costs:

  • BYOD makes your staff happier. Many workers – particularly those interested in IT and technology – really care about the equipment they use for work. Give them the chance to pick the best tools themselves, and they may be happier and more productive.
  • BYOD can make you more innovative. When you give choice to the people at the sharp end of your business, they get more freedom to find ways to be more efficient. They can try out new devices and technologies themselves, learning the best ways to do things.
  • BYOD can reduce overall costs. The thought of providing every member of staff with a £500 smart phone may worry your accountant. But when many staff members already have the equipment they need, you can get a mobile-enabled workforce at a much lower cost.

There is, of course, a lot to think about with BYOD. Safeguards are required to protect important or sensitive data. And you need to carefully consider how far you’ll let your employees go.

For instance, will you maintain a list of supported devices and provide a stipend to employees who decide they want to buy one? Will you offer insurance for staff devices, so they can get a replacement if they’re lost or stolen? And will BYOD become a core element of your company’s IT strategy, or an added bonus for staff who want to explore the options?

BYOD is here to stay

Whatever your take, BYOD is here to stay. It’s almost certainly happening in your company already. And that means you need to explore the possibilities it offers, rather than ignoring it.

If you don’t know where to start, talk to someone who does, like your IT supplier.