Why Legal Concerns Put a Halt to BYOT at Baxter

Saving money while boosting employee morale was the impetus behind allowing employees of Baxter International to bring their own phones and tablets to the office and plug them into the corporate network. But before a wide-scale bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) program could be adopted, legal raised some concerns.

Baxter CIO Paul Martin says in-house attorneys specifically wanted to know whether, in the event of e-discovery, the $13 billion healthcare company could still access information held on a privately owned device. And if information did need to be obtained, could IT access it in a way that protected the company from liability. At the time, there was no formal policy covering such events.

"The discussion we have had is how to do e-discovery with other people's devices. If it's a personal device, can we wipe it? This gets gray," he says. "We're trying to determine how to draw those lines."

"Employees have to understand their corporate responsibilities related to data and allow IT to implement certain management controls, even if it is a personal device," says Joe Oleksak, a security assurance manager at the consultancy Plante and Moran.

Martin expects IT and corporate lawyers will finish writing a policy in the next few months that spells out the level of access Baxter would have to personal gadgets used for work. For example, employees may have to consent to IT wiping a phone or tablet clean of all data when they leave the company to guard against sensitive material going public.

Building a Business Case With iPads

Whether consumer devices are purchased by employees or the company, Martin expects they'll be increasingly common at Baxter. The company conducted a global pilot of iPads with 200 to 300 mobile workers-including the sales group-to assess whether the device improved productivity. So far, so good, Martin says. Medical representatives have found the Apple tablet is better for showing product information to healthcare professionals during brief client meetings because it's faster and easier to navigate than PowerPoint presentations on a laptop.

And a policy that lets employees bring their own devices to work-expected at Baxter in mid-2012-may also cut laptop procurement and support costs. Martin hasn't quantified a business case yet, but anticipates relying more on tablets. Not only are they cheaper to buy, but they could reduce the expense of producing printed materials if the company creates interactive product brochures that can be displayed to customers on tablets. Baxter already plans to give iPads to senior leadership and knowledge workers.

But before again allowing personal devices at work, IT must build a support infrastructure and applications to access, Martin says. Unlike other companies that have embraced BYOT, Baxter doesn't want to leave employees on their own to configure their personal devices for work use. "We want support in place first, rather than deal with employees doing it themselves and looking for help after something goes wrong."

Plus, Martin wants a suite of mobile applications ready to go, such as expense report processing, executive dashboards and interfaces with the CRM systems. "We've got to get in front of this very quickly."

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

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