The Worker is the Boss

By Edward Cone  |  Posted Tuesday, February 02, 2010 18:02 PM

by Samuel Greengard

We all know that if the typical IT manager had his way, everyone would use the same type of computer, phone or mobile device. Standard issue. No muss. No fuss. It makes perfect sense because this approach trims dollars and simplifies IT administration. It also makes it a lot easier to manage security.

But the era of dictating to employees what to stow in their pocket or purse is rapidly disappearing. "The consumerization of IT is underway," argues Sean Ryan, a mobile research analyst at IDC. "Employees are grabbing control of the process and IT executives don't have much say about the matter."

A few things are driving this trend. First, mobility is going mainstream and becoming a competitive factor in the business world (see: Minding Your Mobile Assets). How do you tell the sales guy to carry a Blackberry when the applet he requires and desires is on an iPhone? How do you inform an executive that she has to lug around a full-fledged laptop when a netbook will do?

Second, if you're going to tie a workforce to an electronic leash and ask people to blur their job and personal life, you had better give them some flexibility and let them use a device that works for them. Nowadays, this isn't so simple. Windows Mobile is wheezing and the Blackberry, while still viable, certainly isn't the headliner it once was. Apple has changed the game, and Android, Palm and Symbian are players too.

Third, and this one is particularly important, handcuffing employees for sheer cost savings or simplicity isn't a particularly brilliant approach to running a business. IT efficiency doesn't necessarily equal better sales and bottom line results. In reality, a one-size-fits all approach is a bad idea. Sales staff or executives may require iPhones and field techs may need Blackberries. Even within a particular group or department, people may have entirely different needs.

On a certain level, IT managers know all of this. Yet, they grumble about supporting multiple devices and usually do everything in their power to thwart the migration to a number of operating systems and devices. Just remember this: Forrester Research reports that 73 percent of global enterprise workforces will be mobile by 2012. In other words, the ripple is rapidly turning into a tsunami.

What's more, this sea change has implications far beyond the mobile world. Gartner too has examined the topic of IT consumerization, even referring to a "civil war" between IT and consumerization. Clearly, IT leaders must adjust and adapt to this new world order.

So, get over it. IT is no longer calling the shots about what devices and gear workers use. The good news is that cloud computing, SOAs, better administration tools, and improved security are making it possible to build an IT framework that's equipped for 21st century business. Savvy IT executives will say viva le difference!