The trend toward consumerizing IT seems unstoppable, whether the IT department likes it or not. Individuals and departments are doing an end run around corporate IT to use the devices and services they want, not necessarily the approved choices.

So how does IT respond? Ranging from acceptance to resistance and from control to enabling, there are basically four ways IT can play it, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, risks and headaches - and its own IT persona. Which play is right for you and your company?

BYOD Response #1: Bring It On!

The Player: Harry the "Roll Your Own" Hippie

The Play: "Anything goes, dude, if it helps you get your job done."

Pros: Lower hardware costs, happy workers

Cons: Device-level security risks; support, monitoring and training cost increases

Stress Level: Mixed. You're taking a big risk, but happy users make for mellower workdays.

Prospects: Fair, as long as you set guidelines. Device neutrality doesn't mean you can't spec minimum system functions and enforce usage policies. You may need to keep offering company-provided equipment for free, lest an employee claim that you forced him to upgrade his beloved StarTAC. You may want to add support staff and bolster the security team, but policy planning can mitigate the impact.

BYOD Response #2: Not on My Watch!

The Player: Carl the Laptop Cop

The Play: "There will be NO outside devices. Any and all violators will face a week in solitary."

Pros: Consistency allows IT to focus on building better, more reliable apps; support and training costs reduced.

Cons: Angry inmates may include your boss.

Stress Level: High. You're still responsible if anything goes wrong, and be prepared for dirty looks in the hallways.

Prospects: If you work in a highly regulated environment, you may have no choice but to go this route. If you can pull it off, you'll be the envy of uptight IT managers everywhere, but its no fun trying to fight the future. You'll likely get pegged as a reactionary thinker unable to adapt to the modern world. Not a good long term strategy - your watch may end sooner than you think.


BYOD Response #3: Buy 'Em Off

The Player: Patty Payoff

The Play: Buy 'em the best there is. Why would employees choose a functionally redundant personal laptop or smartphone when the company offers a serviceable alternative? Generally, because most corporate-issued devices suck. Eliminate the lameness and you reduce the desire to stray. Listen to employees and provide a selection of world-class company-provided devices.

Pros: Happy workers, and a de facto standard that isn't worth fighting

Cons: High-end devices can be expensive. And no matter what you offer, someone is sure to want something else.

Stress Level: Low

Prospects: Good. What's not to like? Workers get great equipment and IT can focus support on a few platforms. You just need to be prepared to keep up with when the Next Big Thing comes along.

BYOD Response #4: Secure the Pipes

The Player: Peter the Plumber

The Play: "We're all Web-based and virtualized, so use whatever you want as a terminal." As long as everything goes through the VPN pipes, your data should be safe, and users will find the tools that are most productive for their situations.

Pros: Happy, nonpersecuted workforce, locked-down work environment

Cons: Completely ignores device-level security, inevitable end-user support. Potential performance and connectivity problems.

Stress Level: Higher than you might think. You could end up dealing with wonky compatibility issues for which you haven't prepared.

Prospects: Opening the door half-way is tough. Tacit approval is still approval, and if you're letting devices on your network and into your apps, you're going to have to support them - not just their virtualized environments. Regardless of how cloud-based your architecture may be, you're still going to have sensitive data sprayed across a wide range of platforms.

Should IT managers roll over or fight the power? Let us know which IT plays for dealing with consumerization you find work best.