Do companies have to play by the same rules when it comes to BYOD tablets?

When it comes to BYOD, there's a delicate balance that needs to be struck when bringing personal smartphones into the enterprise.

When it comes to BYOD, there’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck when bringing personal smartphones into the enterprise; users must trust IT with their personal devices and IT must respect the users. This relationship is vital for BYOD phones, but are tablets at the point where we need to be just as careful?

BYOD for phones is delicate

After two decades of mobile phone ubiquity, nobody can argue that they are anything other than essential. No matter the approach, employees must have access, even if a poorly-planned BYOD program turns into a situation where employees are simply paying their company’s phone bill without any of the benefits of true BYOD freedom.

BYOD programs for phones have to be applied carefully, using the right mixture of mobile data management, mobile application management, and even mobile device management. Data and application management can be used to keep employee devices personal and unmanaged, or incentive-based MDM (such as the “carrot stick” approach, consisting of “we manage your phone, but you get greater access to corporate resources”) can ensure user freedom by remaining optional.

Because mobile phone access is so vital, if strong controls are applied to personal-liable phones, then the use of those personal phones should be optional. In that case, users should be able to opt out of BYOD and receive a corporate-liable phone, or at least a stipend, which would create a “user-manged” program instead.

BYOD for tablets is simpler

Nearly two years into the tablet era, it’s safe to say that they do have an important role. While the future scenario of “pick a form factor, any form factor, they’re all the same,” is probably a long way off for the majority of organizations, millions of people today are using tablets and mobile applications to get real work accomplished. The large numbers of tablets being purchased directly by corporations is further proof.

Despite all this, we’re not nearly to the point where it can be said that tablet use is a requirement for employees. As a result, organizations can use a “take it or leave it” approach when incorporating personal tablets. Applying controls is not the tight-rope act that it is with phones; instead companies can do whatever is necessary to ensure security, and there are many vendors ready to fill that need.

In turn, the users can always choose to not bring in their own tablet if they aren't amenable to the management restrictions required by their company. They’ll still have access to all the same corporate resources on their desktops—all that’s lost is a form-factor option.

Some day...

There will be a point where equal access to the three form factors—phone, tablet, and desktop, or someday more—is widespread. But for right now, though, personal tablets can remain somewhat of a luxury, subject to whatever controls a company deems necessary. It remains up to a company to make it as easy as possible for users to choose whatever tools enable them to work best.

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