consumerization of ITFor a number of years now, IT has been confronted with what is known as the consumerization of IT.

We used to have complete control: “you can’t have that”; “you can’t do this”; “you can only have access to these”.

All of that changed with the introduction of the personal smartphone and tablet computing.

No longer could we put all these controls in place, either technically or practically. In some cases, we could implement technology controls, only to invoke rebellion from employees, especially those from the younger generations. Why can’t I use my iPhone at work? Why can’t I take work home with me on my personal tablet?

This blog post is not intended to address the security issues around these questions, but is intended to look at some of the mistakes we have made and how not to make them going forward.

  1. “No, you can’t use your iPhone or personal tablet for work”.
    This reaction, sometimes ‘kneejerk’, was common, and may still be even now. However, employees tend to find ways around it when authorities tell them they can’t do something. Ask yourself this question: Would you rather have employees perform workarounds that you have no control over, or would you prefer to let them do what they want yet still maintain control over corporate information? The consumerization of IT requires a new way of thinking from IT leaders.
  2. Slow or no adoption of consumer IT products.
    In past blogs, we have discussed the role of IT in potentially helping the business to innovate and grow. Consumer technology may be an ideal opening to foster business innovation. Think of the many applications your organization could benefit from by going mobile for example. There will be a number of them that will benefit either your staff or your clients. Smartphones and tablet computers can be great tools for innovation, and your staff will probably love using them. The consumerization of IT has provided you with a useful tool – a staff that has a much better understanding of technology. You can use this to your advantage.
  3. Using technology to enforce performance.
    “Access to this website is denied. Please contact your supervisor if access is required for work purposes”. You have probably seen a similar message to this at some time in the workplace. While some genres of websites should be blocked for obvious reasons, blocking Facebook and other social media sites may be counterproductive. The 9 – 5 workday is no longer the norm. Your staff expect to be able to check the status of their friends during the day, and also expect to answer emails in the evening after they leave the workplace. If you block access to popular social media sites, staff will use other means such as cellular data on their device anyway. Employees with more latitude to work when they want within a set of boundaries are more likely to be high performing.
  4. Having the wrong infrastructure and support.
    Once people start connecting their own devices to your network, they perceive them as being part of the company network and therefore believe you should support them. Your staff likely do not have expertise in all consumer IT devices so you need to figure out how you will support them, or, otherwise, let users know they will not be provided with support. You should still expect calls to your Helpdesk though, as users may still think the problem is yours, and in fact it might be. Infrastructure for consumer IT products may not be as straightforward as traditional IT infrastructure, and you need to ensure that an appropriate infrastructure is put in place and maintained.
  5. Not having a policy for BYOD.
    Before you allow the proliferation of consumer IT products in your organization, you should definitely have a policy in place. The policy should be endorsed by HR and Legal, and in fact they should either create it or contribute to it. The policy should not be onerous. Too much legalese and punitive threats make policies difficult to read and even more difficult to manage. Keep it simple, preferably to a single page.

If you would like more information on this topic, or if you are looking at introducing consumer IT products to your organization, give us a call to discuss your options and how to achieve the greatest success in your initiative.