Small Business Lessons from Hillary Clinton’s BYOD Fiasco

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have landed front row center in the headlines, though not in the most direct way. In this case, the fervor over Hillary Clinton’s emails has lead to a lot of discussion surrounding BYOD and the best practices companies and organizations should adopt. For those not up to date with the news, the controversy surrounds the former Secretary of State choosing to use a personal email server for all her emails whether they were personal or related to her governmental duties. It was later discovered that she deleted a good portion of her emails, prompting further investigation and more questions. So why pursue these actions regarding her emails? Clinton claims it was for convenience since she didn’t want to carry around multiple devices. She also claims she deleted certain emails out of concern for her privacy. Political opponents have disputed these claims, but that’s not the point of this article.

What most small businesses can take away from this fiasco are lessons about how best to adopt BYOD and the common mistakes to avoid.

Make BYOD Policies Clear and Concise

Any organization adopting a BYOD policy usually has to create a shift in the organization’s culture. That requires setting out policies that outline the proper use of personal devices while at work. Moving to a BYOD policy normally requires an adjustment period, and that time can be made much smoother should the adopted policy be clear and easy-to-understand. In the Clinton case, the exact policies of the State Department may have been hard to follow, leading to confusion over what was appropriate for proper business use. Organizations should be careful not to make this mistake. They need to determine if personal emails are appropriate to use for work purposes. They also need to explain how personal devices should be handled in the office or on the road. The easier it is to understand a BYOD policy, the fewer problems will arise.

Divide Personal Data From Business Data

When using a personal smartphone or tablet at work as part of a BYOD policy, it’s easy to combine data between someone’s personal and professional life. For reasons of security and privacy, an employee’s personal data should always be segregated from the business data on the device. This not only helps in avoiding confusion, but it ensures that the organization cannot access data considered to be private and sensitive. Dividing data also makes it easier for businesses to protect and archive data, a feature that seemed to be sorely lacking in the Clinton case. The segregation of data makes data management easier on the whole and allows for data containerization, allowing the device user to set who has access to what information. That would make deleting emails for privacy reasons unnecessary, which would have eliminated one of the more controversial points of the Clinton email mess.

Business Applications Should be Easy-to-Use

Many organizations adopt bring your own device as a way to help employees be more productive, but all those productivity gains mean little if the approved business applications make the work more difficult. Any new policy that complicates matters more than they were before is simply inviting more trouble. If acceptable business apps make little difference for an employee, they’ll more likely look for other ways to achieve better productivity, which could put data at risk. Companies should make sure any approved business apps work well with the employee’s preferred device, thereby avoiding conflict and more violated rules.

The lessons from the Hillary Clinton email scandal are a good way for organizations of any type to learn what some common BYOD mistakes are. A company may not have the same high profile as the State Department, but the security surrounding simple things like email is still of vital importance when using personal devices. The issues raised in the fiasco can serve as a good starting point for organizations to discuss what works with their own BYOD policies and what can change. With clearer rules designed to address the demands of employees, many of the problems encountered in the Clinton email situation can be avoided, and the benefits of BYOD can come to the forefront.

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