We’re seeing more and more people bringing their own devices (BYOD) to work and the BYOD trend is now widespread in the workplace. Aberdeen Group reports that 75 per cent of organizations allow employees to use their own mobile devices for work. And, my company’s own research found that over half of company staff (55 per cent) regularly use personal mobile devices for work-related activities.

Whilst many agree that personal mobile devices in the workplace offer many benefits, printing from tablets and smartphones still presents a challenge for many business users and few people take full advantage of this opportunity. Over two-fifths (41 per cent) of those we questioned said printing business material from their personal mobile devices was important or very important.

However, 77 per cent said they rarely or never print company documents from their own mobile devices. This may be caused by a lack of support or technology to enable mobile printing, preventing employees using their devices to their full potential.

When companies insisted that their staff used corporate-sponsored mobile devices, mobile printing wasn’t such an issue. Equipment tended to be standardized and emailing a document to a printer was an acceptable and easy solution.

However, the BYOD trend is on the up, tablet computers and smartphones have become more sophisticated and users’ expectations have increased. All these developments have combined to make providing support for mobile printing more challenging than ever before. The biggest challenges that IT teams face can be broken down into three areas.

User experience

Mobile devices often provide an excellent consumer experience but fail to impress at the business level. When an employee wants to print a document from their laptop or desktop computer it is as simple as clicking the print icon. However, many tablet and smartphone operating systems aren’t designed with printing in mind so that ease of use can be difficult to emulate.

Device access

An IT department may be responsible for supporting many mobile devices. Add in multiple operating systems and the number of printers a user needs access to and IT has a major challenge. Providing access to the network is just the first step. The bigger challenge is how to find, connect and send information to the user’s printer of choice.

Output fidelity

Perhaps the most important aspect of any type of printing is whether or not what the user is seeing on their screen matches what they pick up at the printer. For mobile printing, this means that the document must be accurately converted to a data stream the printer can understand, otherwise the printed copy won’t match the soft copy.

So, how can IT teams overcome these challenges and support the needs of a mobile workforce when they opt to use their own devices? One simple and cost effective solution is to use mobile print applications. These allow users to print directly to any printer on the company network from a Wi-Fi or 3G connected smartphone or tablet.

And, there are more advanced solutions that enable users to ‘print from anywhere’. Whether that’s at their desks, in a meeting room or when out on the road. This works by connecting the mobile device to the corporate ‘print cloud’. Print jobs are securely held in a cloud queue until the user is ready to release their documents on any enabled device in the network. Streamlining the printing process through the cloud helps businesses save time and money by giving users access to the most efficient printer and eliminating unwanted output.

The BYOD trend is still relatively new but more and more organizations accept that it is here to stay and are actively embracing the benefits it offers. But, for it to be a real success, IT teams must tackle the challenges it brings head on to ensure maximum benefit to all concerned.