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IT consumerization: Nightmare or golden opportunity?

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Unsure about embracing IT consumerization at your company? The truth is, it’s not so easy to integrate mobile devices into enterprise environments. Smartphones and tablets weren’t designed for business users, and that can mean big headaches for IT — not the least of which is data vulnerability. So why bother?

Let’s start with the indie jewelry designer vs. Urban Outfitters story that went viral on Twitter. An Etsy-based designer claimed in a tweet that the clothing giant Urban Outfitters ripped off her necklace design. Within minutes, the designer was flooded with sympathetic responses. Urban Outfitters could have sustained a major credibility hit had the retailer not “heard” and responded early. As it turned out, Urban Outfitters was able to reassure the designer and salvage the brand image by joining the conversation.

The thing is, effective participation in social media requires a lot of listening. It requires much more than one corporate-appointed team, listening for a few hours a day, can be expected to handle. That’s where consumer tablets and smartphones come in.

Mobile consumer devices make it much easier to stay connected to social networks. Recent studies bear this out. In addition, 33 percent of the employees studied for a Gartner report admit to using their personal devices to connect to social media while at work. Each one of those employees has the potential to positively or negatively influence your brand on social networks. Why not turn that uncertainty into an advantage by training all of your employees to become brand ambassadors?

Is that a good use of company time? If you want to have an active hand in shaping your brand image on social networks, it is. And, anyway, where else could you get direct access to your customers’ thoughts as well as the opportunity to respond to them — in real time?

You may not be able to control what people say about your brand on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but you — and your employees — can participate in the conversation early and often. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Create a core competency around participating on social networks. Teach your employees how to represent your brand on the social networks. You’ll need to create a clearly defined practice — and then make sure everyone buys into it.
  • Fence your data, not your people. Secure your data without limiting user access. For example, desktop virtualization provides anytime, anyplace employee access to their productivity resources — but your data never leaves the confines of a secure data center.
  • Keep company and personal data separate — from the beginning. Let your employees bring their personal devices to work, but make sure they don’t mix their personal data with your corporate property. You can accomplish this by isolating company data in a virtual desktop on each device.

It’s true that the effort to embrace consumer smartphones and tablets in the enterprise workplace comes with IT challenges. But those challenges are not insurmountable — and the benefits are definitely worth the trouble. You just need a flexible mobile computing strategy that enables you to focus on controlling only what you really need to control. This will enable you to lead the process, not the other way around.

Ann Newman is the Dell Large Enterprise Client Editor and an active market-response writer. She created the Dell technology and solution websites that support large enterprise end users.

3 Responses to “IT consumerization: Nightmare or golden opportunity?”

  1. Ann, you have hit the nail on the head here. It’s about the data, and the Apps that access the data. With a proper strategy, and the right infrastructure, companies will be able to embrace and leverage these great consumer devices