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Why a 'bring your own device' strategy is critical for small business owners

Jan 20, 2014 @ 8:42 am

By Alex Murguia

At the beginning of the year, it became apparent during our budget review that managing the operations of our firm resembled more a Best Buy operations meeting than that of a wealth management firm. All that was missing were the blue shirts.

Our discussions centered on servicing computer towers, laptops and an increasing rate of mobile phones (around 16). We did not even consider tablets as they float around in the ether. In addition, there are another four or five employees who take calls or engage in e-mail with their own personal phones while away from the office.

Before my anxiety expanded like a stent balloon, our technology and business leads uttered the acronyms BYOD and MDM as a way to maintain and oversee our mobile strategy.

Our firm is instituting a Bring Your Own Device policy as part of our new Mobile Device Management strategy. I suspect most, if not all, firms will become quite familiar with these acronyms in the months and years ahead. Here are some thoughts that helped guide our BYOD decision making:

1. Our value proposition at McLean Asset Management is wealth management and not phone/tablet management. Our clients do not care if Elon Musk is in our back room.

2. The division between “at work” and “at home” hardware has all but disappeared over the last few years. How many times have you taken a personal call on your company phone and vice versa?

3. We need a way to more effectively control our data from both a client privacy and a company proprietary point of view.

New offerings have come up over the last few years that really address the blending of personal and professional devices. We have chosen Airwatch because it is a very cost-effective cloud-based solution. I am actually somewhat jealous that I wasn't smart enough to think of these solutions, but that issue is between me and my therapist.

As part of our new MDM policy, we will allow employees to purchase whatever phone or tablet best suits them and, depending on their role, we will subsidize a portion of the cost. We can do this effectively now because Airwatch provides the platform that can manage and deploy the information inside mobile devices.

Here are a few examples worth considering:

1. Device management: At McLean, we will centrally deploy and partition Orion, VEO, VPN, and Outlook apps onto an employee's mobile device. This partition will essentially be McLean real estate on the mobile device. The partition is beneath the surface and there is no “fenced-in” feel to the mobile device.

2. Enhanced security: If an employee loses his device, he will just need to notify us and we will wipe our information clean. If he finds it the next day under the sofa, we can instantly redeploy it. This also applies to theft.

3. Secure content locker: If an employee or adviser leaves the company, the data is wiped. For larger firms, this is a great tool (e.g., breakaway brokers, temporary employees).

4. Compliance: Rules can expand beyond just apps. One can include policies on encryption, and limits or prohibitions on transferring data. This is also useful if a device is stolen.

5. Big Brother (for better or worse): Track and view device information via dashboards and also possibly prohibit the downloading of AngryBirds, Candy Crush and Plants vs. Zombies onto the personal area of your mobile device.

Our employees can rest easily knowing that I would be the one with the most to lose there. I can also rest easily knowing that with a strong MDM strategy, we can retire the blue shirts for the foreseeable future.

(Have you addressed the BYOD issue at your firm? If not, what's holding you back? If so, how have you moved forward and what policies and technologies have you implemented? Join the conversation by clicking below.)

Alex Murguía is a managing principal at McLean Asset Management Corp. and chief executive of inStream Solutions. He can be reached on Twitter @alexmurguia1


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