BYOD blowback drives more IT underground

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Enterprises unnerved by the bring-your-own-device movement in which they encouraged employees to use personal devices at work, are now angering workers by trying to lock down those very devices.

According to new research from Forrester, the unintended, but entirely predictable, consequence is that many of those frustrated employees just turn to new, unsanctioned devices instead.

After surveying 5,102 business users for its “Five Steps to a Successful BYOC Program” (Forrester prefers the term “computer” to “device”), here’s what Forrester has to say:

Today’s workers often need more than the locked-down corporate PC’s and are spending an average of $1,253 annually of their own money on computers to do their jobs. … Yet the same survey reveals that only 12% of firms encourage those who do so, with the rest actively discouraging it – and some even penalizing employees. The mismatch between employee needs and IT’s position is obvious, but few organizations are adequately prepared to change course.

The examples of this tactic are piling up. IBM, for example, disables Siri in employees’ iPhones and forbids the use of Dropbox, the wildly popular cloud-based file storage, sync and sharing service. That raises interesting questions in the cloud computing era, where users can tap consumer-oriented services from their personal phones and laptops that may be verboten in the corporate context. It’s the very definition of shadow IT.

Shadow IT: not necessarily a bad thing

Often, workers have much better technology at home than they do at work. For example, Forrester found that more than half of the businesses surveyed still run 11-year old Windows XP on their PCs. The question then is: Which would you use, that moldy PC or your shiny new iPhone? I rest my case.

And even if you have a modern PC at work but it can’t access your Dropbox account, would you stop using Dropbox? Not likely.

Forrester analyst David Johnson, blogged about the topic here, and reinforces what most of us already intuit:

When the tools a person depends on for their job belong to them, we often can observe 3 things: 1) They will buy tools that align best with their own strengths and help them do the best work they can, 2) They will generally select good quality tools given the choice, because they don’t have time to waste dealing with cheap ones that break, and 3) They buy them from companies who stand behind them and will pay more to get better service. In their world, as in ours, time is money.

As another data point: a survey of 4,000 business users by cloud-based storage and file sharing company SkyDox, found that nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of respondents use free file-sharing apps and of those more than half (55 percent) do so without informing IT.

So what to do? Forrester recommends that IT staffs be encouraged to stop fighting the rank-and-file and really learn about the tools they want to use and, where possible, facilitate rather than fight that use.

And, where security and compliance are a concern, IT should investigate the use of virtual desktop technologies and other options to provide a standard Windows environment without requiring a corporate PC.  That would give users access to secure corporate applications that are easily managed, patched and updated, while also allowing them to use their device of choice for both work and personal tasks.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user DieZBW.

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