It's Take Your iPad to Work Day
Remember your first day in your job? You arrived at the office, you were shown to your desk, you met your new colleagues, you found out where the coffee is, and someone from IT showed you your computer. A computer provided by your employer is as much a tool of the trade as your desk, the phone and the coffee, right?
Well, a new trend is emerging that challenges your work-supplied computer as being the only device you use for work. Known as "bring your own device," - or BYOD for short - it's where employees decide on the devices they wish to use for work. It seems that some employees don't like being told what device they're going to use for work, especially if work involves travel or weird hours, so they choose their own.
Often it's a device they already own - like a tablet or a netbook. Or a combination - the work PC when at the work desk, the iPad in work meetings, the Mac at home, the smartphone when on the move. It's a result of people owning devices for their own use, but which seem to be convenient work devices when they need to be too.
BYOD is driven not by IT departments - in fact it causes them headaches - but by individuals who want to keep in touch with what's going on at work, and because sometimes their devices are just more convenient to use.
So what does it mean for you as a fundraiser, your donors and your charity?
If you want to BYOD, you're going to need to be able to run a broad range of applications across many devices. You need e-mail that works equally well on your iPad and your work PC. A donor database that can be accessed from your smartphone and the office computer. Social-media tools that allow you to post, comment and share on behalf of your charity from anywhere.
Unless you use a Web-based mail tool like Gmail, device-specific mail apps are pretty well established and can be configured to manage multiple accounts such as personal and work e-mail. The same goes for calendar / schedule apps. Donor databases, however, are complex, and it is unlikely that sufficiently capable apps exist on all platforms. But all devices have Web browsers, so a browser-based database system is best as long as it can cope with being used in a variety of browsers and can scale from small screens to large. The only catch is you need to be connected to the Internet to use them.
Second, your donors
Whether they access your website from home or work, you no longer can make assumptions that it will be from a particular browser on a computer monitor. They probably BYOD as much as everyone else, so your website needs to work on all form-factors (or have a site that auto-senses the screen size and sends you to a mobile site when necessary), using all popular browsers.
Your interaction with them via social media should be catered for by the various platform-specific Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube apps. Responsive Web Design is a recent development that allows websites to adapt to the device screen on which they're being viewed. That means a single website would scale and display equally well on a smartphone or a large monitor - a trend worth keeping an eye on, as it means your donors would get the same Web experience whatever the device.
Third, your charity
The obvious benefit for organizations is that if the employees are buying these devices for themselves, the organization doesn't have to. It might also get more productivity from staff members, who are willing to check in during their own time.
But there are significant issues to overcome - security being the most worrying for IT managers. A recent survey by Cisco found that although 48 percent of IT managers said they would never authorise employees to bring in their own devices, 57 percent agreed it's happening anyway without their consent. So it's probably a case of how it should be managed, rather than outlawing it.
As for me, I sometimes write this column on my iPad in Starbucks, sometimes at work. I check e-mail on my smartphone and use my home computer to check the database. My IT department probably worries about it, but I wouldn't have it any other way.