Not too long ago, our marketing director lost his iPad after leaving it in a rental car while traveling. For many, this would be a near catastrophic event, given the amount of personal (and often business) data that is often kept on any mobile device. Fortunately, he had installed an app that cleared all of his personal information and locked down the iPad. So he simply logged into a computer and secured the device. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to use the location feature on the tablet and lost it completely.
There’s no doubt that we’re more connected today than ever. We carry around smart phones, tablets, and laptops—often all at the same time. For many, these devices store every aspect of our lives, so losing one could very well cause more than a little anxiety.
The explosion of mobile devices hasn’t bypassed construction sites by any means, particularly as mobile construction software has become more readily available. I’ve noticed more project managers, foremen, and site workers are pulling up plans on tablets and entering job information on smart phones. In many cases, these devices belong to the individuals who are using them. More contractors are adopting “bring your own device” (BYOD) for mobile computing and app use. This is usually a good idea for both the contractor who saves time and money, and for the employee who gets to keep their own favorite mobile device with them throughout the day. But this also raises some questions about the use of personal equipment on the job.
Security is probably the most obvious concern with having your employees use personal devices at work. However, some say that mobile computing will be more secure than traditional computing in the very near future. Whenever you allow some data to exist outside the walls (or firewalls) of your company, you’re going to lose some amount of control. The good news is that mobile app developers have recognized the need for increased security, and are creating apps much like the one my marketing director used. Today, companies are creating better security measures in order to deal with the lack of individual control they have over personal devices.
With so many apps available today on Apple iTunes and Google Play, construction companies face the challenge of standardizing the apps they use. A simple search in either store returns hundreds of apps for you to download that cover a wide range of functionality—everything from payroll to simple measurement tools. Should it be up to the individual to decide which apps they use, or should their company decide? Fortunately, web-based construction software is making the decision easier by requiring just a browser to access enterprise software—and just about all connected devices have a browser built into the device. Whether you’re working on an Android tablet or an iPhone, you can still access the accounting and project management information you need to do your job. And because cloud computing takes the pressure of constantly maintaining servers and updating hardware and software, IT managers have more time to help identify and standardize native apps if that is something a company chooses to do.
Lingering BYOD Questions
So what happens when your project manager accidentally breaks his phone on a job site and loses his personal data? Who pays for the lost data, the phone, etc.? With more smart phones sold than regular phones in the last year, there’s really no way to avoid your employees using their own devices at work and the subsequent issues. Not all of the questions and potential problems with BYOD have been worked out, so it’s best to address them early. If you anticipate potential problems and have a plan for how to address them, they’ll be smaller problems in the end. Like any new business practice, BYOD presents new challenges no matter what industry you’re in, but the benefits of a more connected job site and access to real-time information will, in my opinion, make those challenges worth facing for the construction industry.