iPad takes on the office IT guys

A shiny new iPad – what’s not to like?  Great resolution, portability, a little Hulu on the side – and I can do some work on it, too! The love of these products by consumers bleeds over to today’s enterprise, which is where the new battle royale is taking place. 

A recent Consumer Electronics Association study shows the annual rate of Smartphone and tablet sales are increasing faster than those of any other household product – in short, we love our consumer tech. So, what’s the problem in bringing this to work?

You might well wonder why that out-of-touch IT department is giving you such a hard time. Don’t they know that Dropbox rules, and Idea Boards are better than the tools they give you? What’s wrong with these guys? They even said they wanted to remotely wipe your tablet if you left or it went missing! Can you imagine – all of your stuff, gone!

Here are some numbers: In a recent Intel-sponsored survey, 82 percent of companies allow some or all workers to use employee-owned devices. Harder to measure but coming from the same survey, 57 minutes is the average amount of time reclaimed per worker per day in an Intel BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program.

Whatever the exact numbers, the trend is hard to ignore.

“BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and culture of client computing in business in decades,” says David Willis, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner.

This is, indeed, the latest skirmish at the office – the sexy new apps and devices versus the security- conscious, process-driven IT department with all of its procedures and hierarchy and lack of tools to adequately handle all of this.

So, who’s right? Should we leave our devices at home where – as some IT folks say – they belong because they are consumer products difficult to fold into their security structure? Or let them in and take advantage of their freshness and ease-of-use to fulfill the mission that technology has always promised: Giving you a leg up in your daily tasks and competition.

While there is no question this consumerization of IT is a huge and disruptive trend, it does carry big headaches for IT. A few of these are:

• Sensitive data in the cloud
• Lack of toolset to manage disparate and ‘individual’ devices
• Stolen devices is PII (personally Identifiable Information) data (update to the stolen laptop in an Executive’s car)
• Self-provisioning by employees and whole departments outside the purview of IT

Will this trend continue? No doubt. A recent Gartner report says 38 percent of companies expect to stop providing workplace devices to staff by 2016, which means employees will be expected to provide their own with some sort of expense-sharing arrangement attached. If Gartner is right, then the battle has already been won.

This situation does remind me of the Web 2.0 days, when users were experimenting with ‘mashups’ and building front-ends trying to modernize corporate data. I think that IT will adapt as the marketplace develops better management tools and can allow the use of these products/services so the organization can harness their creativity – but in a secure manner.