2012 – Year of BYOD. But how do you ensure everyone is happy?

The dilemma surrounding separation of work and personal email rages on- with no clear winner as to what people should do: completely separate or mix?

Last December, the Information Commissioners Office offered new guidance for information held in private email accounts concerning official business is subject to Freedom of Information requests.  So Public Officials, watch out!  You can't use private emails to talk about official business without being discovered.

But this news didn’t surprise us considering the Generation Gmail research we conducted last year. The prevailing behaviour was shown in our research: 79% of people had used their personal email for work purposes. Since companies have no control over personal email this can lead to a complete compliance nightmare.

For most of us not in public service, however, this brings up the much broader question: should organisations encourage the use of work email for personal use, or tolerate personal email for business use?

We live in a rapidly changing landscape, the IT world has significantly transformed over the last 12 months with the consumerisation of IT, Social Networks, Mobile and Cloud. It’s clearly not business as usual anymore.

Generation Gmail discovered that people felt their corporate email wasn’t up to the job.  With limits of mailbox sizes, remote and mobile access sometimes lacking, they felt forced to use personal devices and accounts in order to remain productive.

This isn’t surprising with 33% on Exchange 2003 and 53% on Exchange 2007. 

At the same time, we’ve seen the rise of Smartphones, so people are used to being always ‘on.’  I would go so far as to say they want to be available all the time. I for one, hate turning my ‘out of office’ on and almost never do it.

Once individuals are used to switching between email accounts, it is almost inevitable that corporate policies will fall by the wayside.  But perhaps rather than trying to control employee behavior through policy, organisations should instead be focusing on ensuring they have the right technology in place to ensure that the *right* and the *easiest* employee behaviour become the same thing?

IT organisations need to provide an email system that’s equivalent in features and functionality to employees’ personal email in order for them to choose by default it. So they can get the compliance and security benefits of corporate email.

And to empower that, employers need to be OK with employees using their work email for personal communication - employees shouldn’t need to make a decision about which account to use.

The benefits beyond compliance are interesting too.  Having employees looking at emails out of hours and when they’re on the move empowers lots more productivity. Compared to the potential loss during work time for high value workers, creating a more responsive, agile organisation.

At least for US politicians this is already enshrined in law, as Sarah Palin found out when her personal account was hacked.  But it's also not much good if it's allowed to be deleted...

If I were an IT manager or CIO, I would rather have most high value information workers were comfortable sending a personal email from a work account than visa-versa.

It’s time the business enabled the IT manager to be on a system that fulfils the demands of the users by eliminating the complexity that stops them migrating and upgrading.

Photo CC via CA Technologies on Flickr