The consumerization of IT remains one of the most talked-about issues in the technology space, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. Definitions vary, but most sources suggest it represents the blending of personal and business use of technology. Basically, your employees want to use consumer-oriented mobile devices for work as well as personal applications—whether that means their own smartphones, tablets and laptops, or devices that the company provisions for them.
The good news is that this consumerization trend is driving innovation. Instead of new technology flowing down from business to the consumer, as it did with the desktop computer, the flow has reversed and the larger consumer market often gets new technology before it enters the enterprise.
However, the challenge is that consumerization is forcing enterprise IT leaders to deal with an overwhelming array of devices and applications that run across multiple operating systems. It’s hard to prevent your line workers, let alone your boss’ boss, from using their own devices.
So the question becomes how—not if—those of you in enterprise IT can manage the situation. The choice lies somewhere between hoping for the best and implementing a comprehensive support model to manage costs and mitigate risk. A decentralized and fragmented approach to company technologies can lead to a number of pitfalls, according to CIO consultant Peter Kretzman.
Your decision depends on a variety of factors that define how much tension there is between your desire for a short list of corporate-approved devices and end-user demands for whatever devices they feel can best bridge the gap between work and personal activities. Some companies are moving to “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) programs whereby employees choose and are responsible for their own PCs.
According to a blog post by Andrew Conway of Microsoft, “While 36% of IT managers cited security, compliance, and management as reasons that they are not interested in ‘bring your own computer’ efforts or have no plans for embracing it, 40% of these same decision-makers reported that they’ll revisit these policies within the next two years.” IT managers can facilitate BYOD programs with desktop and application virtualization.
Whether you decide to limit choices or encourage a free-for-all, you’ll want to clearly outline each party’s responsibilities with regard to devices and data. If devices are employee-liable, what exactly does that mean for your company? Can IT still maintain some control over corporate data that resides on such devices?
Some companies have found that once they are left to deal with their computers on their own, many enterprise workers find they don’t like it. They like having access to an IT support team to help troubleshoot problems and provide necessary safeguards, rather than paying some retail superstore tech team.
Other companies with concerns over IT consumerization are making it more attractive for employees to use standardized, company-issued devices. This can be done by imposing strict policies to limit or control use of personal devices, or by piloting recommended devices with power users who can sing their praises to other employees for a larger rollout. You’ll want to make sure to collaborate with your HR and legal teams on an acceptable use policy.
I’m sure this is a topic we’ll cover in greater detail in future posts. In the meantime, tell us what your organization is doing in the area of allowing personal computing devices to be used for work. Do you allow employees to access corporate information via their personal mobile devices? What controls have you put in place? Please share your experience with our community.