BYOD may save businesses the expense of investing in mobile devices, but unforeseen pitfalls could negate such savings.
iPass has released its Q4 Mobile Workforce Report, suggesting that while businesses are eager to save money where they can in a volatile economic climate, they may not be considering the long-term cost and consequences of implementing bring-your-own-device policies.
While more employees are using their own mobile devices for work, and onnectivity cost is ranked as the least important factor when choosing a mobile network, for businesses without cost control policies in their BYOD plans, this creates a potentially damaging and expensive scenario for firms without caps in place.
"With more workers turning to their smartphones for work, data usage is growing rapidly across multiple devices. As this BYOD trend continues to explode, not just in the U.S. but around the world, enterprises are seeing the effects both in rising productivity and in rising network costs. Employees are using more data with more devices to work longer hours, anytime and anywhere -- and this report shows they're willing to connect with little regard for cost," said Evan Kaplan, chief executive officer at iPass.
"This lack of cost sensitivity has the potential to dramatically impact corporate budgets. In order to gain the business benefits of the proliferation of consumer-driven IT, enterprises must stay in front of the BYOD challenge by providing cost-effective connectivity for mobile workers wherever they roam."
The report shows that employers are less likely to give their staff a smartphone, declining from 58 to 33 percent, based on a survey of of nearly 1,700 mobile workers at 1,100 enterprises around the world. The practice of employees bringing their own device to work has risen by 4 percent, from 42 to 46 percent respectively since 2011.
The research also says that smartphones are becoming the key to the employee universe, ranked behind only keys and wallets in importance. However, this doesn't mean that laptops and tablets are in declining use; instead, iPass says that the more data you use on your smartphone, the more you are going to use on other devices.
The iPhone remains the top smartphone for the enterprise sector, with a 53 percent market share among mobile workers, up 8 percent from 2011. Google's Android enjoys a 34 percent slice of the market, whereas BlackBerry use has declined from 32 percent to 26 percent. The Windows Phone ranks as the last popular, with only 5 percent of mobile workers owning a handset -- although 8 percent of employees said they were planning to purchase one by the end of 2013.
When asked about other mobile devices, 59 percent of workers said they expect tablet use to rise in the coming year, and the iPad remains the dominant enterprise tablet with 54 percent of employees already owning one -- or planning to buy one by the end of next year.
The network of choice for 52 percent of mobile workers is Wi-Fi, but connectivity issues can impact efficiency -- and so 4G/LTE connections, favored by 38 percent, can be relied on more frequently by staff members who have to work on the go. Half of mobile workers complained that finding free Wi-Fi networks was a hinderance, whereas only 33 percent complained of the same issue last year -- which in itself may suggest the rising rate of using BYOD outside of company-provided networks.
The continuing barrage of work email was cited as the top tech distraction for employees, followed by technical problems with their devices. Social media networks including Facebook and Twitter came in third place as a distraction at work.
As flexible, mobile working rises, businesses must have practices in place which either offer roaming for their workers, or a cost-considering cap on data roaming charges. If this is not put in place now, as firms expect their staff to use personal devices for work, they may find themselves expected to foot the bill.