20 Percent of IT Departments Prohibit Consumer Devices

More than 20 percent of IT departments don't permit outside devices.

BYTE Editors Gina Smith, Brian Burgess and I presented a webcast on the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) in early August. Just judging by the number of attendees and quality of their many questions, it's clear that CoIT is on everyone's radar. Over and over we hear about consumerization as the coming tsunami. And it's upon us.

Either you ride it or it will drown you. During the webcast, I surveyed attendees to find out if they're surfing, drowning, or somewhere in the middle. The following sums up the results of a survey of 100 IT personnel with a user-base of 1000 or more.

Does your organization have a consumerization policy in place?

Fifty-five percent either have a consumerization policy or are in the process of developing one. The issue for most is how to develop a policy that can be monitored and enforced. For example, how do you prevent someone from sending a work-related spreadsheet to a personal account to be later viewed on their iPad? Once it's gone, it's gone. (Look for our next webcast to focus on these types of solutions).

Forty-four percent of those responding to this survey question said that they don't have a consumerization policy and are not developing one. No policy though is a policy of sorts. The danger of not defining a specific set of rules is that unwritten rules become the de facto rules. A user might have a friend in the tech department that will help with something that other techs won't. An official policy works to prevent this.

Have consumer devices added to your IT department workload?

Fifty one percent checked yes - it added to their workload, while 18 percent said no. Only two percent of respondents said they reduced to workload from consumerization.

The bean counters may be under the impression that they can outsource a portion of IT's expenses on users who are provisioning their own hardware. The thinking goes that they'll save money while piggy-backing IT use on that outside stuff. But it's more complicated than that.

The additional overhead to maintain those self-provisioned items falls to IT. As one person who attended our webcast, Sam B. commented,"… user's will first come to us (the IT department) with questions on a problem they may encounter on a new device before they go to a friend or customer service for the device." IT gets the call. It's hard for any of us in IT to refuse service even though we have a policies that forbid outside devices or that require users to the vendor first.

I had this exact experience. A user skipped our usual dictation solution for his own on his iPad. I couldn't blame him. Our solution would have given him still another device to cart around. Unfortunately, his solution didn't work out of the gate. For some odd reason this software needed a dedicated Internet connection to work. The iPad was in airplane mode. I figured it out fairly quickly, but was sidetracked from my regular work with a request for a solution I had never seen or tested in our environment. It's not how I want to handle tech problems.

On a scale of 1-5 what pressure are you getting from the executives to allow for consumer devices?

Forty-one percent are under pressure to allow consumer devices in the work place. But that involves creating a policy, mechanisms to enforce it, developing expectations of support, and a new set of security issues in addition to the ones we already face.

Thirty-one percent said they are getting little or no pressure to allow for consumer devices.

The largest group - with 28 percent - said that they are getting some pressure from above. That sounds to me like it's coming in the form of questions, like "What would be the impact on the network?"

Allowing for consumerization is not just throwing the doors open to any devices or services the user wants. Increasingly, IT's role will be to manage self-provisioned devices within the enterprise, giving users some guidance along the way. Our next Webcast will be about solutions. I'd like to add a few more survey questions. What questions would you ask fellow users if you could? Email me at [email protected]. I'd love to get your suggestions and feedback, too.

Dino Londis is a BYTE technologist specializing in the Consumerization of IT by night, and an IT Pro working at a Manhattan law firm by day. Email him at [email protected].