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September 1, 2014

Is It Time for BYOD to RIP?

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Is It Time for BYOD to RIP?

A bring-your-own-device policy may be on the outs for real estate brokerages, and the replacement for such a system may be in the cloud.

Real estate pros are definitely not nine-to-fivers. They spend the bulk of their time on the road, doing everything from meeting with listing clients to logging hours at open houses. As a result, practitioners have unique technology needs that usually revolve around communicating and accessing information while out and about. Today, most real estate agents use their personal phones — the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon — for daily business.

BYOD has, however, been a double-edged sword for the real estate industry. There are benefits and complications inherent for both agents and their broker partners. Should you BYOD or explore some of the new technology options available?

BYOD Benefits: Always in Touch

Mobility is critical to ensuring that agents have the resources they need at hand. As such, most firms support BYOD policies. A personal smartphone acts as an office in hand to keep agents in touch with clients, colleagues, and the home office, as well as to access listing and contract data. Allowing agents to use their own mobile devices helps save on hardware costs. Further, agents who are comfortable with the features and applications on their personal smartphones use them more effectively on the job.

BYOD Risks: Don’t Phone It In

While BYOD can be a good mobility strategy, there are risks to consider. Allowing agents to transact business with their personal phones can make promoting and sustaining a real estate firm’s brand difficult. It can also lead to frustration and loss of confidence when clients can’t easily connect with a broker through a single agency business phone number. An unmanaged BYOD setup can make it difficult to secure proprietary — and sometimes confidential — company and client data. Valuable client contact and transaction history information stored locally on a mobile device can be lost if the phone is stolen, or if the agent leaves the brokerage firm.

Best Phone Communications Practices — From the Cloud

Today, business phone systems that combine cloud-based PBX (which is a private branch exchange, a centralized telephone management system that connects the internal telephones of the business to the public telephone network) and mobile service offer brokers an attractive alternative to BYOD.

These solutions integrate communications across all devices through a centralized phone system, providing advanced calling features that can be accessed from various devices, including desktop phones, mobile handsets, and computers. By integrating mobile phone service with a hosted phone system, brokers and their agents have more control over the phone numbers, devices, data, and contact information, reducing the likelihood of data loss or theft.

These integrated systems also enable a “dual persona” device that allows real estate brokers to keep work and personal use separate, eliminating the need for employees to carry multiple devices. An application installed on the handset allows brokers to place and receive mobile calls using their work phone numbers. This allows for a company-owned business identity that lets buyers, sellers, colleagues, and business partners reach a broker at one number, regardless of where they are. That means no hassles for potential and existing clients or colleagues, and better response time and productivity. In addition, with the ability for brokers to use brokerage phone numbers from their mobile devices, business phone calls can be kept separate and expenses managed more easily.

Brokerages can benefit further from a complete end-to-end solution, from a single provider, that enables them to own and manage their agents’ devices. Owning the device gives the brokerage control over both the device and the data used on it. It is far easier to handle updates, upgrades, and other service-related issues working with one service provider. A real estate brokerage can give each of its agents a new cell phone with a preinstalled and configured application to link with the brokerage’s phone system, avoiding the need to call the help desk to download and configure the application properly. Further, the service can be quickly suspended and reassigned should the agent leave.

Businesses are often wary of the cost of providing company-owned devices. The fact is that a bundled, cloud-based phone and mobile service solution can enable any business to provide their staffers with the feature-rich mobile devices they want while protecting their business identity and company data for little more — and possibly less — than what they pay overall for their existing systems and services.

So, is it time to bid adieu to BYOD? The policy served well for a number of years. But now there is an attractive, economically advantageous choice available — right up there in the cloud.

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