Mac Discrimination: Bad For The Enterprise

Companies should stop discouraging their employees from using Macs and adopt policies that promote technology choice, finds Forrester report.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

October 30, 2011

3 Min Read

Building The Mac Office

Building The Mac Office

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Slideshow: Building The Mac Office

About 22% of enterprises see a rising number of employees bringing their Macs to work, despite the fact that almost twice as many companies block Macs from accessing corporate IT resources.

What's behind this growing rebellion? Forrester analyst David Johnson argues in a report published last week that those who insist on Macs at work aren't villains out to overthrow the Windows orthodoxy. Rather, he says, they're HEROes--highly empowered and resourceful operatives--a group composed of the 17% of information workers who take it on themselves to find ways to be more productive and serve customers more effectively.

"Most of the Macs today are being freewheeled into the office by executives, top sales reps, and other workaholics," Johnson wrote, in an effort to distinguish today's Mac user from the somehow suspect "Think Different" subculture that stuck by their Macs in the dark ages of the '90s.

And who could be farther from the counterculture stereotype than the well-heeled worker? Forrester sees "a strong correlation between higher corporate average salaries and the number of Macs purchased by employees and brought to the office." That may because the MacBook Air is, by Forrester's measure, nearly twice the price of a typical corporate PC. However, math of this sort doesn't account for support costs, replacement cycles, or productivity.

[The return of Macs to corporate environments owes a lot to the success of Apple's iPhone and iPad. Read iPad Still Dominates Android In Enterprises.]

Forrester considers those sneaking Macs into work to be part of a group it defines as power laptop users, who make 44% more money, use more collaboration apps, and carry an average of three devices wherever they go. It's a group that probably wastes more time turning on devices for the TSA when traveling, but chances are they're not booting Windows XP--one of the appeals of modern Macs is the quick startup time of flash memory.

Given that it's reputable workers opting to bring their own MacBook Air notebooks to work rather than struggle with the company-issued anvil running a decade-old version of Windows, Forrester's report suggests companies should tune in, turn on, and drop their lingering suspicion that there's something subversive about deviations from One Microsoft Way.

That doesn't mean dyed-in-the-wool Windows admins--presumably partial to an operating system that guarantees the employment of its maintenance priesthood--have to start singing folk protest songs and wearing rainbow colors as a sign of Mac acceptance. But Johnson contends companies should take a "laissez-faire approach" to managing Macs.

Ignore for a moment the irony of recommending a policy of laziness (laissez-faire translates roughly to doing nothing) to empower the "workaholics"--and consider that the consumerization of IT is happening whether IT managers embrace it or not.

In fact, there's more to it than just letting employees continue to smuggle their Macs into the building. Johnson's version of laissez-faire translates into six action items, but we're not talking about major IT initiatives. Accommodating Macs in an organization is more a matter of helping Mac users help themselves and making sure the roadblocks are removed, because empowering workers rather than restricting them enables productivity.

"There is a correlation between innovative, productive company performance and personal freedom for personal computing choices," Johnson concluded in his report. "Those continuing to force prohibition risk being labeled as irrelevant at best and are holding back the competitive potential of the company's employees."

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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