The Rise of BYOAI – Compliance and Privacy When Employees Lead AI Adoption

Mar 15, 2023

Luis J. Salazar

As organizations adopt AI technologies to improve their operations and stay competitive, a new trend is emerging – employees are bringing AI tools to their companies. According to our research, in 3 out of every 4 cases, the employees, not the management, are introducing AI to their workplaces, reminiscent of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) during the early days of the mobile internet. Similarly, the bring-your-own-AI (BYOAI) phenomenon is poised to change our work with AI tools.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend revolutionized the workplace when employees used their preferred devices for work purposes, regardless of the organization’s readiness to embrace the new technology. It went through some growing pains related to compliance, security, and knowledge preservation but resulted in increased productivity and reduced company costs.

It is worth noting that the debate continues on the benefits and challenges of the BYOD trend. Some organizations have restricted or prohibited BYOD policies to address security and compliance concerns.

Why are Employees Bringing AI Tools to Work?

  1. Employees are already familiar with AI tools and have been using them personally. They understand the potential benefits and are keen to apply them to their work. Our research shows that over 70% of team members at US organizations with less than 500 employees are familiar or very familiar with AI Tools.
  2. Employees are often more aware of the specific pain points in their jobs. They can identify areas where AI can help them work more efficiently.
  3. Affordability. Low prices and free trials make it simple for employees to explore and showcase their value to colleagues and managers. Our analysis of over 5,000 AI tools reveals a median price of just $10 per month for generative AI solutions targeting content creation, data analysis, business operations, and sales and marketing tasks.

“When my manager hesitated to try AI tools because of worries about their output quality, I took the initiative. I used my credit card to get a fantastic content creation and summarization tool, and guess what? My workload dropped by over 50%, and my coworkers started to notice. Now, a bunch of my colleagues use the tool too, even though our manager still thinks AI is just a fad”

Why is BYOAI significant for organizations?

The rapid adoption of AI tools by frontline workers indicates that employees are increasingly tech-savvy and engaged with the latest technologies. This can be a valuable asset for companies looking to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving market. Additionally, BYOAI can help organizations identify and prioritize the most relevant AI tools for their specific needs and foster a culture of innovation where employees are encouraged to experiment with new technologies and bring fresh ideas.

The challenges of BYOAI

However, BYOAI also presents some challenges for companies. For example, companies must ensure that employees’ AI tools are secure and comply with data protection regulations. Companies must also establish guidelines for employees using AI tools in the workplace.

Our research indicates that BYOAI is prevalent in nonprofits and the private sector. While management may focus on compliance and ethical concerns, frontline workers appreciate increased efficiency, reduced administrative burdens, and improved work impact.

Nonprofits adopting BYOAI can enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness, improving community outcomes. However, they must ensure AI tools align with their mission and values while adhering to legal and ethical standards.

By embracing this trend, companies can tap into the creativity and innovation of their employees and identify the most effective AI tools for their specific needs.

Embracing BYOAI

Rather than fighting BYOAI, we can borrow a page from the early days of the mobile internet and start defining parameters for adopting AI tools in their organizations.

  1. Understand the landscape of available solutions. As of March 2023, we have classified 8,000 AI Solutions and Companies that offer tangible business value to Small and Midsize organizations, including nonprofits, healthcare, and education.
  2. Get educated about the business value, shortcomings, and potential ways to address the limitations of AI tools, particularly those related to privacy, equity, inclusiveness, and fairness.
  3. Maintain an active dialog and foster an open forum for best practice sharing within the organization.

Five things to check when embracing BYOAI

Privacy and Terms of Use:

Team members bringing their favorite AI tool can accept terms of use that compromise an organization’s intellectual property and data handling policies.

We cannot emphasize privacy enough. We experienced large-scale damaging effects from the unethical behavior of the large social networks that sold users’ information to bad actors in pursuit of profits. These AI tools feed from our data to be able to help us, and it is unclear how the data is protected or kept private.

Compliance with data protection.

When employees bring AI tools to the workplace, they may only sometimes be aware of the compliance requirements for handling sensitive data, which can lead to data breaches and compliance violations that are costly and damaging to the organization’s reputation.


BYOAI can introduce new vulnerabilities to an organization’s IT infrastructure. These tools may not be subject to the same rigorous security protocols as the organization’s IT systems.


When employees bring these tools to the workplace, they may inadvertently violate licensing agreements, resulting in legal liability for the organization.

Intellectual Property and Knowledge Preservation.

When employees bring AI tools to the workplace, the knowledge created using them may reside outside the organization’s storage and collaboration tools, making it difficult for the organization to preserve and protect its intellectual property, especially if the employee who created the knowledge leaves the organization.

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