Last week I was attending an industry conference where one of the keynote speakers was Mr. James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge, Inc. James is a fellow Texas A&M Aggie and a personal friend, so I made sure to sit in the front row to take advantage of any heckling opportunities that presented themselves. Despite myself, James once again had me enthralled with his vision of the pace and direction of information technology and the inevitable impact this will have on the construction industry.
Of the many things James brought up, the one that captured my imagination most was 5G wireless technology (probably since in a previous life I was a telecom engineer). 5G…I remember when 2G was all the rage in the 90s. You could actually send text messages and pictures (really, really slowly) using your phone—incredible! Fast forward to today. With now-proven 5G wireless technology, one will be able to download a feature-length movie in one (not two—one) second. If you think this technology will sit in the lab and take years to be commercialized and hit the streets, you haven’t been following the trends in mobile communication and computing.
Speaking of mobile trends, and returning to the present day, the company blog last week by my colleague Brian Vander Yacht had me thinking of the increasing use of mobile computing in the construction industry. We are nearing the point where saying “mobile computing” is redundant. The mobile devices we carry around with us in our pockets and purses have as much computing power as desktops from not that many years ago. And with cloud computing taking off, the burden of processing and storing data is moving away from the device and into a distributed computing model. Computing is mobile, and access to data and applications is becoming ubiquitous.
Which leads me (finally) to my point. We are at or near the point where all of the folks we work with are packing powerful, connected computing devices. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been a bit of a buzzword in the industry. Much discussion has gone on about whether individuals should be allowed to have and use their personal mobile devices at work—in the office or on a job site. The fact of the matter is…they will. For many people, particularly ones just now entering the workforce, asking them to leave their phones or tablets at home is roughly equivalent to asking them to please not wear shoes to work (portions of Portland, OR and the Silicon Valley excepted).
So then the question becomes: What policies do we need to put in place to deal with this brave new world of BYOD so that our company information is secure and our folks remain productive? A glib answer to this is “BYOCS”—Bring Your Own Common Sense. Employees using their own equipment is not a new paradigm in business. Salespeople who put significant miles their own vehicles, for example, typically receive allowances based on company policies.
But glibness aside, this is a somewhat different situation. Beyond the issue of compensating folks for use of mobile devices at work, companies do need to realize that BYOD carries with it the potential for increased exposure to compromised data security. What happens when a BYOD employee leaves or is terminated? What happens if their phone is stolen? Policy alone cannot indemnify a company from potential losses in these situations.
That is where (no surprise) technology comes in. There are technologies that can, in effect, create a work “container” within an employee’s private device, isolating their data and applications from those you want them to use for work, and software platforms known as Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM—sorry, yet another acronym) systems that help IT departments establish and control these “containers.” These technologies beg a bit more discussion than I have space for here, but feel free to drop me a message or comment below for more information.
BYOD is here whether we like it or not. Common sense policies can go a long way to making sure your staff, especially those Millennials, are happy with your approach to their use of their mobile devices, and that your business actually benefits from a better-connected workforce. And technology exists to shore up your defenses against bad actors. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to start my three-minute download of a movie for my plane trip using this antiquated LTE technology. 5G cannot get here fast enough for me.