March 30, 2010, 9:36 PM — Ten years ago, most people used more advanced technology when they went to work than they did at home. Today, that has been turned on its head. Many employees have newer technology at home than at work, and they expect IT support for many of their favorite devices.
Such expectations aren't new. Conflict over enterprise support for consumer electronics emerged with PDAs and then flared when the first iPhone arrived. Now, new consumer electronics such as e-readers, netbooks and tablet PCs are beginning to infiltrate the corporate environment.
How should IT deal with that? Man the barricades and try to keep consumer devices off the corporate network? Embrace the proliferation? Or ignore the whole thing? All three approaches are being pursued in IT organizations across the land, and each has its own advantages and drawbacks.
* Ban it. Some organizations, including the Pentagon, some financial services firms and extremely low-margin businesses, have opted for locking down their infrastructure and prohibiting employees from introducing their own technology. They have decided that they can't afford the security risks that accompany more wide-open policies or that they just can't afford the cost of all that additional support. For most corporations, however, taking such a hard line would probably lead to dissent in the ranks, if not outright revolt. Unless security and cost concerns are truly compelling, as the former is for the Department of Defense and the latter is for a struggling business, employees are not likely to understand IT's reluctance to support commonplace consumer electronics. Policies prohibiting employee technology are viewed as unsympathetic to employee needs, and explanations that security, interoperability and reliability are concerns are often interpreted as excuses for laziness. In the worst case, IT can come to be perceived as the "technology police" and a roadblock to productivity. Once that happens, IT risks losing peer support for its initiatives.