As the great Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) debate passes into history, Peter Doherty, Chief Executive of Headlines – The Internal Communications Agency, predicts a new golden age for internal comms as a tool to improve performance.
It was possibly the biggest dilemma facing business in its relationship with employees since the advent of flexitime: to BYOD or not to BYOD?
Smartphone or tablet, the handheld device has been challenging the conventions of workplace trust – and is now inspiring a revolution in the way organisations operate.
For some it was a nightmare scenario.
The IT director, who crafted her trade managing compliance against data protection rules and defending her systems against corruption and cybercrime, saw the floodgates open.
The heads of HR and IC could no longer manage moods through drip-feeding carefully crafted messages – nor hope to keep commercial confidence. Now everyone owned communication.
But of course, there is no longer such thing as confidential information.
Ask the poor rich people who trusted their financial secrets to Mossack Fonseca, or the enigmatic PJS and YMA who invested in an injunction in a vain attempt to conceal olive-oil-gate.
For all but extreme Luddites, the debate about the role of handheld devices at work is now very much passé. The question is no longer if, but how.
Happily, in an ephemeral world, YOD is a consistent acronym. Across the civilised planet, gurus and soothsayers agree that for business to function competitively, some form of Your Own Device is essential.
For the trending discussions have now turned from Bring (BYOD) to Choose (CYOD) and Use (UYOD – also known as BYOD2).
In a nutshell, the idea of folk using their private smartphones and tablets is dead. Whereas three years ago 66 per cent of companies were giving it go, today the figure is 47 per cent and falling.
Why? Too many issues around expecting people to use their own mobiles for work. Many didn’t want to; IT departments had nightmares about security; and part funding is fraught with complexity and tax issues.
CYOD is becoming the norm as firms bite the bullet and accept that the smartphone is the modern Biro – so essential for everyday work that the company has to pay for it, increasingly for employees at every level.
Offering a selection or models fully funded by the business overcomes issues of personal preference, while enabling the IT department to maintain a vestige of control and keep a handle on security.
And, as that brings pressure to demonstrate return on investment, UYOD (remember, that’s BYOD2) has the answers. It is about using the device as a work tool as well as a comms vehicle. And work tools improve performance.
Harmon.ie is an Israel-based firm, which pioneers the use of mobile devices as everyday work tools to improve productivity, collaboration, innovation – and engagement at the same time.
In a recent Forbes interview, CEO Yaacov Cohen laid out his vision: “BYOD2 is not about bringing devices to work; it’s about using devices for work. How does a business turn these shiny new toys into business tools?
“That means allowing employees to work with customers, review contracts, write blog posts – do real work on mobile devices.”
As best practice, he advocates CYOD – companies providing devices, but giving employees a choice. Anything else is a corruption of principle.
We should also conquer inhibitions about trust and confidentiality.
“BYOD is an expression of our world, which is becoming more democratic and more engaging.
“We’ve gotten stuck on the infrastructure side of things. It is true that mobile brings a lot of questions about security. What happens if I lose my device?
“What happens if an employee leaves the company with sensitive records on his mobile device? We need to address these issues and then we need to move beyond them.”
In Cohen’s view, even the ultra-light wireless laptop is the modern equivalent of a heavy old typewriter that kept staff anchored to a desk all day. Increasingly work will be done anytime, anywhere, from the palm of your hand.
“The primary business driver is getting work done. Business users do not want to compromise. They want convenience. They want to be able to do the work without being tethered to their laptops. People deserve and demand a great user experience.”
It all stacks up like a perfect storm of opportunity: the arrival of the smartphone (the iPhone first took place just nine years ago); ultra-fast internet; the shift of data and processing from server cabinet to cloud; now the emergence of anywhere, anytime applications such as Microsoft 365.
And by remarkable coincidence it’s happening at a time when the workforce is not just ready – but gasping for it.
Gen Y, now late teen to mid-30s, is characterised by the qualities and expectations that demand mobile working: creative, flexible, ambitious, self-determined, conscientious – and keen to communicate and collaborate.
So what does it mean for us?
For IC, this convergence of communication and work tool goes well beyond the intranet, which had too many limitations and often gained little serious traction.
It represents a brilliant opportunity.
Consider this: in just 20 years we as IC professionals, have gone from being indulgent producers of (often largely irrelevant) company newsletters, to becoming integral to every aspect of business improvement.
The communication we orchestrate is becoming much more than a top down, or even two-way, flow of information to make people more engaged or equip them to better contribute to the company’s performance.
Internal communication was once regarded by sceptics as little better than propaganda to motivate and manipulate the masses.
It is now an enabler, an essential work tool that, in itself, enhances productivity and performance. IC has come of age and is demonstrating its true potential.
Engaging news to improving performance: How Headlines is adding value to IC
Three years ago, Headlines created its first app-based digital edition of a printed magazine. And it was good.
Brought to life through animations, video and extended multi-media content, it was engaging and interactive – and won shedloads of awards.
It was about making communication more attractive and accessible while enabling audiences to participate.
It helped to inspire our vision for mobile devices as catalysts for better working – in a world where the boundaries between office and lifestyle are increasingly difficult to define.
Our new generation of apps still attract and engage. They are appealing and user-friendly.
But importantly, they are work tools that have a direct impact on performance and productivity.
They enable new recruits to be properly onboarded to a consistently high standard, even before they join, so that on day one they arrived informed, inspired, with admin tasks complete, and ready to embark on their new role.
This saves management time and energy and helps get new starters fully productive much more rapidly.
They bring communities together – often breaking down the barriers of roles, levels and locations – to enable networking and collaboration. Chief executives can have face-to face conversations with individual employees across the planet.
And the same hub that shares news, ideas and information, can also put into the palm of people’s hands tools that enable them to calculate complex costs, plan journeys, book a room, guide customers around a product or piece together a proposal.
In a very short space of time IC has moved from telling people about the tools to do the job, to become a tool in itself.
• To find out more about how Headlines is helping clients improve performance through apps, please call 01908 393303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org