Home Another View on The Consequences of BYOD

Another View on The Consequences of BYOD

Saying “‘Bring Your Own Device’ is an IT “trend” is like saying peanut butter in school lunches is a trend.

It’s not a trend, but it’s a well-established practice that’s been going on for years.

A decade ago, my then-employer didn’t offer me a laptop, despite the amount of travel required for the job (a lot), and despite the fact that laptops were business staples even back then. No: they gave me a desktop, forcing me to tote 3.5-inch discs with me wherever I went, and leaving me subject to the whims of both the machine that awaited me at my destination and its owner’s goodwill. My solution to this craziness was to buy a laptop with my own money. And even then, I had to hide it. I couldn’t ask for IT support, and even if I could persuade someone in the IT department to enable me to connect to enterprise applications, they swore me to secrecy!

Fast forward to today, and connecting our own devices to enterprise applications is simply how business is done. Is this reality a consequence of the Millenials entering the workforce, the big box stores popping up on every corner, or the ubiquity of iTunes and app stores for Apple and Android? Perhaps. But we certainly can’t call it a trend, because that horse is never going back in the barn.

Yet, there’s been a hard backlash to this new reality. In the last 18 months, many corporate IT departments seem to have decided against letting employees use their own devices for business applications. Reasons likely include ease of systems management, ease of device management, cost of desktop support, potential security risks, and/or stress on internal systems not designed for uncontrolled access. So instead of offering employees direct connections to corporate email, they roll out webmail clients. (And don’t even think about asking IT for a direct connection to shared files and applications.)

Users have for the most part responded by going their own way. “Fine,” they’ve said, “we’ll just use Box.net instead, move all our stuff to the cloud, and do our collaborating there – and we’ll use our Gmail addresses to do it.”

Paul is VP, Product & Solutions Marketing, Axway. The company sells managed file transfer and business integration tools.

And much like a grizzly bear that backs away when the hunter flaps his arms, corporate IT departments have cowered. “What have we done?” they are asking themselves, “now we’re worse off than before we intervened!” But in many organizations, this IT retreat is too little, too late. Because not only are users infuriated over IT’s high-handed intervention, but also IT’s uncompromising stance toward the “consumerized” business experience we’ve all grown accustomed to and want to continue to pursue.

IT has learned the hard way that if they don’t come through, users will simply find a way to work the way they want to. So now more IT shops are learning to be more proactive about providing tools that empower workers to get their jobs done in a way that meets their usability expectations while supporting the security and productivity interests of the organization.

That’s the backlash to the backlash.

And it’s taught us that telling users what tools they can and cannot use is only going to lead to an entire cadre of employees turning to their own laptops and iPads to get things done, and sending and saving data off the radar.

And that kind of shadow IT infrastructure is something we definitely don’t want.

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