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Technology

New technologies and adoption trends that influence IT strategy, and the issues and opportunities they represent.

Consumer tech at work: Can’t beat ‘em? Manage ‘em

Consumer tech in the enterprise was a hot topic in 2011. It’s an issue that once again pits the CIO’s responsibility to manage risk and information integrity against the end-users’ desire for more convenient technology; and, the economy of supporting standard devices and applications against the cost of technology anarchy. But this one is not going away and it will remain one of the dominant issues for CIOs in 2012.

 

I just came across a CIO study commissioned last September by Compuware. It explores the growing user movement to more mobile and more personal technologies. No big surprises in the results, a lot of users want it and a lot of CIOs don’t. In fact 77 percent of CIOs responding view consumerisation of IT as a business risk.

Now I’ve talked to quite a few CIOs on this subject and yes, it’s true that many, if not most of them are wary about allowing end-user devices to function in a kind of dual world of corporate and personal information and application. But the truth is that most also recognize the tremendous potential of such powerful technologies and the productivity gains that might be possible by applying them to the appropriate applications.

Why they’re negative is that they have not yet seen a way to resolve the issue of how to allow those devices to connect to corporate resources without compromising the integrity and security of those resources when the devices go outside the control of the corporate infrastructure and enter the personal and social world of the user. As well, supporting a broader range of unfamiliar technologies will add a burden to the IT department.

Sixty-four percent of respondents to Compuware’s survey say support for employee mobility is almost impossible due to their reliance on external networks, making it much harder to control performance and the end-user experience. And there are significant legal questions around attempts to control user-owned technology – to wipe all data when an employee leaves the company, for example. All good reasons to be cautious.

But I believe we’ve passed the point of no return, and for CIOs to simply refuse to accommodate consumer tech will be like fabled King Canute’s futile effort to turn back the tide. Tablet computers, smart phones, social networks and cloud-based applications are just too compelling for users to ignore once they have a taste of them for personal use. If the IT department can’t find a way to make it work legitimately in the enterprise, then end-users and their management will do it for themselves – if they haven’t already – with all the accompanying unmanaged and unmonitored risks to the company, its information and reputation.

If you haven’t already figured out where you stand on the issue or how you’re going to address it, now’s the time. Start by taking stock of what is already being used and how it’s being used. You may well be surprised at what cloud services and ad hoc applications are in use at departmental and personal levels. Recognise the positives in these and take stock of any risky practices that need to be addressed.

Ensure that the executive team is aware of the potential risks; they may well be among the chief advocates of less restricted use of technology. And work together with the executive team and influential power users to develop policies and best practices that will allow a manageable transition with security top-of-mind.

Meanwhile, a development in mobile technologies promises split-personality devices in which corporate and personal functionality can be separated and access controlled independently, enabling corporate control of corporate access and data without interfering with the ‘personal’ side of the device.

Google

 

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