Want to bring your own PC?
No need to get personal
Workshop There’s a problem brewing in the workplace - employees want to bring to work aspects of technology that they use in their personal life, be it their mobile phones, laptops or even just specific applications.
If businesses haven’t come up against this consumerisation already, the chances are that they will, sooner rather than later - and that in all probability it is happening already behind their backs.
Recent research around desktop equipment shows just how this is starting to pan out. While there is nothing that IT would prefer more than a locked down world that is easier to manage, personally owned technology is either being brought in to the business by employees already, or there is an expectation that it will be in the future, for large and small companies alike (see chart below).
To be fair, the consumerisation of IT is a problem that has been around for a while. But every time something newer and shinier comes along – the iPad or the Galaxy Tab, for example – the debate is resurrected yet again, and usually more vigorously than the last time. So how should businesses approach this thorny area?
From a user’s perspective, making use of advanced technology in the form of smartphones, PCs, slate devices, and so on, is an integral part of everyday life. Of more importance is that the relationship between users, their devices and services can be incredibly close. It is perhaps unsurprising, that they want to use this kit in the workplace, as it is often more valued in design terms and performance compared to standard office issue equipment, users are familiar with it, and arguably, because of this, it allows them to be much more efficient. And if they are willing to spend their own money in the process, the capex budget might be cut some slack, providing any company kit already purchased for them is properly redeployed in the business.
But that’s only one side of the story. From a business perspective, allowing carte blanche on what equipment is brought into the business is a bit like leaving the front door to the office wide open, and not even bothering with the burglar alarm when no-one is there. Without adequate preparation and precautions being put in place, it just isn’t a very clever thing to do, and for a number of very good reasons.
Support and repair of such devices can become a major area of concern – in particular defining what can and cannot be supported, and where the boundaries of responsibility lie when things go wrong. Liability is another thread – who is liable when a corporate application causes problems with the user’s own software, or more worryingly, when user acquired software is used illegally in a work situation?
Then there is the issue of security, with users connecting into company resources with who-knows-what security in place. The likelihood of malware getting in rises considerably when inadequately protected systems are employed. Giving users free rein implies that they are all sufficiently competent to manage IT risks and security. However, our research shows this is far from the case.
Attempting to stop the influx of any devices and access to ‘community’ applications will, in all probability, fail miserably. So, like it or not, compromise is needed. But how should businesses go about deciding what’s in and what’s out?
The list of equipment, applications and services will depend on the needs of the business, but also has to take into account what makes users tick from a technology standpoint. What this boils down to is understanding rather than assuming what users need and want, and looking at if and how these needs and wants should be incorporated into the business.
So, if a handful of users want to use an iPhone for work purposes, what are the risks, benefits, cost of support and so on. If the argument doesn’t stack up in favour, are there close alternatives that might be offered. Or if there are more than a few users in the iPhone camp, does it make sense to add it to the company list and support it accordingly. Similarly, with social media and collaborative applications such as Facebook – what is the relative importance to the company, and what business-focussed alternatives can be offered?
This is a move away from how things have been done traditionally, but it isn’t about giving users the freedom to dictate what IT should be in place. Rather, it is about making sure that they aren’t ‘putting their own IT in place’ without company sanction.
Many businesses are already being more proactive in their acknowledgement of users’ needs and wants, either through routes such as user committees and management/IT lobbying, or more indirectly, through general feedback and satisfaction monitoring, as our recent research into desktop computing mentioned earlier (see chart below).
Elements of this will probably be a pretty big irritant to IT, particularly those who believe that if you let users have control over things they will break them – always have and always will. Possibly, but then that’s not so different from what happens now? And if it is their own ‘thing’ then maybe they will be a bit more careful.
It's becoming more common
Only because IT is locking down desktops and the tail is increasingly wagging the dog.
We are currently having trouble with our outsourced IT arm refusing to grant access to certain programs (manufacturer's pump selection, hydraulic calculation software) we used previously under our own IT support but with outsourcing we have seen a lot of software removed from the approved list. The only way to be able to use this software is to load it onto your personal laptop and bring it in.
When IT is outsourced it becomes profit driven and instead of the aim being to help the business perform, the aim of IT becomes providing the least amount of support for the money they charge and testing becomes a computer based does it work exercise instead of understanding how people use it and why they need it rather than including a proram on a list based on cost. IT is a support function helping a business, not a driving function dictating how to conduct business. It's like car manufacturers making increasingly fast cars but speed limits are coming down and they're now lower than the 60s. Computers can do so much more than they used to 20 years but they are becoming more locked down until you're left with a glorified typewriter.
So the view of IT from outside becomes that of an untrusting arm of the business stifling performance and looking after their network to charge more money for doing less by banning more and more devices and programs which leads people to take the law into their own hands an bring their own kit in to perform the job theyu used to do until this new IT outfit turned up.
That's the view from the other side of the fence, downvote away!
Its the work kit...
Time was that the work PC was some super fast devices with all the bells and whistles and the home PC was whatever junk you could cobble together. Times have changed. The work PC is now a creaky old PoS with insufficient memory and a grotty display and the home machine is the spiffy system.
I'm contemplating bringing in my own monitor. The one I was issued with is crap, I've been staring at it for years and its doing my eyes in, but requests for a new one are met with the drawing in of breath and mutterings about "being economical". I've got better ones lying around in the closet waiting to be recylcled (they're flat panels, of course); the only reason why I don't just bring it in is that the IT people would have a cow and I don't want to 'give' them stuff -- they're supposed to be paying me, not the other way around. (In today's business climate it appears that having a job is doing you a favor....)
....so all your systems run encryption and will only connect to authenticated devices? Laptops are chained to desks? USB is disabled? There is no VPN (except to a few locked down units)? Any employee taking *any* business device home for *any* reason is subject to summary dismissal?
Because unless all the answer to all the above is "Yes", then you have no hope in hell of keeping "business data" within the company should an employee choose to lift it. And even then I don't fancy your chances.
I'd be more worried about personal data on corporate systems. My personal devices are leagues more secure than anything my company provides me.
A number of our sales staff have gone independent and the usual weapon of choice is a MacBook Pro, running a Windows virtual machine for essential corporate stuff. It's tempting. When I'm working remotely with customers for weeks at a time, I'd much rather have my MacBook (and Aperture, instead of PSE) than my beat up, sub par corporate Dell. There are issues though:
- If my Dell dies on site, guess who's problem it is (hint: it's not mine and I don't care)
- According to the letter of the law, though shall not use none corporate equipment (sales staff of course laugh in the face of the letter of the law.
The Company owes you the resources you need to do your job
The only time I've brought equipment into the office is for use on 3G to get around tiresome and ultimately pointless internet restrictions. I'd never dream of sullying it by connecting to the corporate network.
If the company isn't providing me the necessary resources to do my job, my job doesn't get done. That, and complaining loud enough generally solve these sorts of problems.