Two years after a Hill International Inc. employee left the Marlton, N.J., firm, the IT department is still trying to retrieve data from his mobile phone. Why? Although the data belongs to the company, the device belongs to the employee.
That conundrum is exactly what's keeping a lot of construction companies from adopting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
"Whose data is it, really?" asks Shawn Pressley, vice president of project management systems at Hill. "If [the employee] paid for the [phone service], they could call it his data. We might not have the permissions to wipe it off our contacts. The real big issue is, how do we secure our data from our competition if someone leaves?"
The idea of corporate IT departments allowing employees to use their own devices for work isn't new. Some staffers have been toting personal laptops around jobsites for years; but as the devices proliferate and grow ever more sleek and powerful, employees' pressure for BYOD policies is growing.
"Young engineers come in fresh out of school with personal iPhones or Androids, and switching to a Blackberry is, quite frankly, a step down," says Cole Orndorff, vice president and CIO of Mortenson Construction, Minneapolis, whose company strictly deploys Blackberrys for employees. Orndorff says this is partly because of the Blackberry's proven security system. He has heard of an IT department having difficulty wiping an Android device remotely, during tests. Mortenson prohibits the use of personal devices for work partly because of issues like that.
Technology officers at other construction companies contacted for this article say they are addressing rising demand for BYOD policies. According to a recent Forrester Research Inc. report, 60% of companies say they have conceded to BYOD requests. Some say personal devices extend employee mobility and increase satisfaction. But with the lack of IT control, combined with a rise in malware targeting Android devices—up 472% since July of this year, says Juniper Networks Global Threat Center—BYOD leaves firms concerned about security and data management.
It's a pain to support private devices, says Pressley. "We either don't have permissions to make changes or have to call the employee's phone company," Pressley says.
Common support arrangements include the company purchasing the devices or subsidizing in part or in whole employees' personal devices.
Corren Collura, vice president and CIO of Suffolk Construction Co., Boston, counts 800 Blackberries and 900 iPads it supports in the field. All are company-owned. The company doesn't allow employees to bring their own.