It should perhaps come as no surprise, given our country's role in the development of mobile devices. After all, one of the preeminent companies in the industry, BlackBerry, calls Canada home and can rightly be considered one of the fathers of the modern smartphone revolution.
And yet, it's worth highlighting nonetheless: Canada has proven to be uniquely adept at the implementation and adoption of mobile devices in the workplace.
But what does that mean for Canadian business? And more broadly, what does it say about Canadian work culture?
HISTORY OF DEFINING THE CUTTING EDGE
There can be little doubt that Canada has played a pivotal role in the world of mobile computing. BlackBerry introduced its first smartphone, the BlackBerry 957, in April of 2000. At the time, there was almost no comparable products available on the market; competitors that did exist, such as the Palm Pilot, were lacking in many ways. The BlackBerry put the Internet, email, and phone service into a single platform.
Since this initial launch, BlackBerry has continued to play a large role in the industry, with nearly worldwide adoption of the company's products. In fact, until the launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007, the BlackBerry dominated the mobile computing marketplace. Such facts are relevant here because they help explain, at least in part, Canada's nearly universal adoption of the most recent trend in business: the BYOD policy.
THE NUMBERS DON'T LIE
Canadian business leads the world in the adoption of BYOD—the so-called “Bring Your Own Device” corporate philosophy that allows, even encourages, employees to conduct business using their own phones, tablets, and laptops. According to recent studies, three out of four Canadian businesses have adopted a BYOD policy. Compared to the global average—of which only 46 percent of businesses promote a BYOD work environment—Canada is a leading advocate and practitioner of this revolutionary practice.
Such forward thinking doesn't stop there. Canadian businesses also adopt and utilize social media platforms more frequently than their global counterparts; reports indicate that six out of 10 Canadian companies utilize social media, whereas the global average indicates that only 50 percent of companies do the same.
Social media enables companies to better communicate with their customers, as well as retain top talent through such platforms as LinkedIn. Far from being a passing fad, social media can actually be an incredibly effective tool when used correctly.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR CANADA?
Canada revolutionized the smartphone and is embracing BYOD. What's next?
What are the motivations for such policies? While it can certainly be argued that a BYOD policy can save a business money, Canadian companies seem to recognize that such a work environment can boost employee productivity and morale. Allowing employees to use their own devices enables them to work more efficiently and comfortably—from anywhere. In effect, a BYOD policy can help ensure that employees are using the best tools available for the job.
Rather than dictating what hardware and software an employee utilize to fulfill their responsibilities, why not allow that employee to make the decision themselves? In principle, this is the driving question behind the BYOD philosophy.
However, is should be noted that a BYOD policy is not without potential hurdles. There are not only legal questions that arise from the implementation of BYOD (for example, how can a company ensure that employees abide by confidentiality agreements?), but also more general issues, such as what happens to company data when an employee leaves the organization?
There are also IT and mobility management needs that must be addressed. Before BYOD ever enjoys universal adoption, these remaining questions will need to be answered to a satisfactory level, regardless of how popular or proven the practice seems to be at the moment.
CANADA IS AT THE FOREFRONT
It can be argued quite strongly that Canada, and Canadian business more specifically, is a trend setter in the world of wireless technology and mobile computing. Not only due to companies such as BlackBerry LTD leading the way, but also due to the nearly universal adoption of mobile computing platforms in the workplace.
Such policies will enable Canadian businesses to adapt to changing industries, stay flexible, and be participants on the global stage.
Originally published in December 2013.