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BYOC - Bring Your Own Computer

David Silversmith
David Silversmith

While a company rarely asks people to bring their own chairs or their own paper clips, you often do have to provide your own uniform and maybe soon your own laptop?

A recent online poll conducted by the global IT company Unisys revealed an interesting nugget of information: The majority of information workers are willing to pay for their own work technology. In fact, some 32 percent answered the survey by indicating that they would be willing to pay the entire bill, with another 42 percent open to picking up part of the cost of the laptop.

This is another example of the "Consumerisation of IT." For decades people learned about computers on the job or maybe at school.  But since the late 1990s and rapidly increasing in recent years more and more people are learning about PCs, software and online services at home.  Then, they want to use the products they learned about at home like Facebook and Google Docs in the workplace.  At work and at home and everywhere in between, tech-savvy workers and consumers want to use the same tools and applications – from smartphones and iPads to laptops.

In the early days of cell phones many people had a work phone or a work pager and a cell phone.  However, businesses and people have adjusted and the majority of people have a phone that is shared between work and home.  Likewise many people are getting overloaded with a home laptop and a home laptop and want to move to the one central computer.

While employees may be asking this presents compliance, security and software licensing challenges for IT departments - but these challenges can be overcome.  “In the face of increasing employee demand, IT organizations need to consider new models for end-user support that increase workers’ satisfaction and productivity" said Sam Gross, vice president, Global IT Outsourcing Solutions, Unisys. “By clinging to old ways in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace, employers could miss a golden opportunity to mobilize and unleash the innovation of an army of tech-savvy employees who want to use the technologies they rely on in their personal lives for work.”

Clearly IT will have to specify basic parameters, such as the amount of RAM, minimum storage space and processing capabilities in order to ensure that employees get laptops that are suited for their work responsibilities. Likewise there will need to be standards on firewalls and anti-virus programs. Some believe that the odds are that workers will exercise much more care over a laptop that they paid for.

But finance will have to change too - it's not just IT that will need to adapt. To address concerns about employees who leave the company soon after joining, an appropriate fraction of the subsidy given to the employee could be deducted from the employee's last pay check, prorated over, say, two years.  And then you get into the replacement cycle - how often does the company provide a subsidy for a new computer.

Obviously, there are barriers that need to be considered, and which might not all be surmountable for certain industries like banking, insurance and the military. However, perhaps somebody you'll be bringing your laptop along with your lunch as you head off to the office.

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