MINNEAPOLIS—In today’s connected world, hoteliers are often concerned with managing bandwidth when guests travel with several of their own mobile devices. Lately, however, they’ve been just as concerned with employees bringing their own devices to work and managing employee connectivity.
Company level information-technology staff debate over whether hotel employees should be allowed to connect their personal devices to internal networks and access company email. Property-level management debate whether line-level employees should even have access to their personal phones.
Experts discussed hoteliers’ options during a “bring-your-own-device” panel at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference in Minneapolis.
Robin Koetje, IT director with The Hotel Group, outlined several factors driving the trend in hospitality. Employees have better, faster, newer and more fun devices than those that would otherwise be supplied to them by a company, he said.
“It also allows hoteliers to have constant access to work outside of your normal office hours,” he said. “IT departments often will not have the biggest budget, therefore more and more companies are embracing BYOD and making it an advantage to them.”
However, the rapid adoption of personally deployed, cloud-based tools such as Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive and YouSendIt are easy to use but can create major headaches for IT teams. These applications access data on the device, and Koetje said employees often use them for work-related activities.
“It’s amazing how techie non-techie people can become when they’re trying to solve a problem,” he said. “They find a way to access these things on their own, and if you’re not managing it, that could be problematic.”
Danny Crinson, an instructor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said denying employees—even line-level employees—access to their personal devices is not an option. He said today’s younger generation has grown up with constant access and often functions poorly without it.
“You can’t say to an employee who’s dependent on connectivity that they’ve grown up with a smartphone and went through school with tablets in hand but, ‘Now that you’re at work, you can’t have it,’” Crinson said.
Advantages and disadvantages
Koetje and Crinson discussed the advantages and disadvantages to hotel employees using their own devices during regular business hours.
• Content retention and management. Hotel IT staffs need to know—and manage—all the devices that are connecting to information on their network.
• Security and malware protection. Employees could use two-way tools such as Dropbox and files or folders from home could show up on the company network.
• Device liability. If personal mobile devices are lost or stolen but the employee needs that device to perform daily functions, who’s liable?
Koetje referenced “remote wiping”—the ability for IT staff to wipe a remote device clean had it been lost or stolen—as one line of defense to prevent unwanted access.
However, “we had four or five instances in the past year where we had to remote wipe for various reasons—lost or stolen phone—and only with a few of them did the actual wipe occur (for power or disconnection reasons),” he said.
He suggested IT teams place importance on the fact that employees should communicate as soon as possible that a device has been lost or stolen.
“This is where the IT guys can become your best friend: ‘Just call me, I’ll take care of it,’” he said.
Crinson said people entering the workforce today won’t stick around if they’re working under unfriendly policies.
According to a recent study Crinson cited, only 10% of U.S. employers allow employees to have their phone for personal use. He said this needs to change because the rewards of allowing employee BYOD greatly outweigh the risks.
• Anytime, anywhere access is great for employees.
• Many employees get personal satisfaction from checking their personal accounts during breaks.
• Decrease costs to organization? Saving on hardware distribution could affect the bottom line but having management take extra steps to put security measures in place could offset the cost of devices.
“Taking away their phones says, ‘I don’t trust that you will serve the guest instead of tweet.’ Give them a bit of trust,” Crinson said. “Hoteliers who say, ‘you’re not allowed to have your phone’ create turnover among (Generation) Y.”