Forbes: Avoiding IT Consumerization Pitfalls

Forbes’ article starts with the strap line “I want my iPad” and relates to something I’ve experienced first-hand. When the iPhone 3 was released I noted a marked increase in the number of IBM colleagues coming to me and asking whether they could get their shiny new device connected up to their Notes-based e-mail. At that time, Traveler was not available to UK employees, so the answer was “no”. And even if it had been available, it was nothing to do with me… I’m part of the team that sells Lotus solutions, not deploys them internally.

When the iPad was released the number of requests went through the roof, to the point where I created a pre-formatted reply to send to excited iPad owners. By this time Traveler was coming to IBM UK, but was still nothing to do with me. The was another surge after Christmas, and a few Android owners started to ask the question.

What this shows is that there certainly is a trend for people wanting to incorporate their personal devices into their working life, just as business-provided devices sometimes incorporate some aspects of personal life. Bringing in personal devices can of course create issues for an organisation, but it allows users to satisfy their demand for the latest and greatest. I know people who have purchased a new iPhone with the release of every new model – a business would never support that level of technology adoption purely for cost reasons, but if employees want to fritter away their hard-earned disposable income on new toys, so be it.

Forbes’ article recognises that sacrifices and compromises have to be made on both sides. For IT there may be extra complexity for the support of a myriad of devices rather than ‘the company standard’ – although there is a good argument saying that users will know better how to use their own devices. The compromise for the users is that they will have to comply with their employer’s security policies, often meaning a time-out period and complex password (as I well know with Traveler on my iPod touch).

The conclusion is that, while there are pitfalls, the advantages of consumerisation can be substantial. And I’ll leave you with my favourite thought from the article:

End users don’t bristle at every restriction, just at unreasonable ones.

Recognising that end-users are now more technology-savy than they were five years, I think it would be unreasonable for organisations to ignore the demands of users and they should balance up the pros and cons.


  1. Darren, I certainly agree these trends are real and critical for IT organization and leaders to address.

    At Intel IT, we saw this coming in 2008 and spend 18 months working with HR, legal and security teams to engage our employees to understand their needs/desires and then put the policies in place to securely enable personally-owned handhelds (phones & tablets .. in future mabye PCs) inside our environment.

    Today we support nearly 20,000 hand-helds with nearly 1/2 of them being employee owned.

    Check out our IT whitepaper on this subject:
    “Maintaining Information Security While Allowing Personal Hand-held Devices in the Enterprise”

    Chris P, Intel IT

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