Afraid of BYOD? Intel shows a better way

Intel does more than manage user devices: It embraces and actively invites them in

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This progressive attitude isn't just Stevenson'; she's been CIO less than a year, and the open, empowering approach at Intel predates her by several years, with BYOD efforts starting in late 2010. In other words, this is no fad at Intel but a cultural shift it had already made.

"We made the decision to move the trust point to the user," Stevenson tells me. She doesn't believe there is a rational choice not to. The younger generation is fairly savvy about technology, so "they're going to use their own technology anyway." But it's not just the 20-somethings. So will older workers -- after all, the PC has a popular history of more than 40 years and the Internet is approaching 20 years as a part of everyday life. Computer technology is now normal in our personal lives, so why act as if employees are ignorant about it or that the workplace is the only place they encounter computer systems? They may not be experts, but they're hardly newbies.

Plus, all the fears you hear expressed about data loss and compromised user systems are old news, Stevenson notes. The threats of email forwarded to personal accounts, of information copied to files and other apps, of stolen or lost computers and storage media have been around as long as there has been a PC. "They exist today on the laptop and PC. They're not new."

So why act as if an iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Xbox, personal Mac, home PC, Windows Phone or RT tablet, or Android device introduces a new risk? It doesn't. That realization has freed Intel to take advantage of consumer technologies and individual employees' personal technology preferences. Why not tap into users' expertise and the contexts they find themselves most comfortable in if it helps them do their jobs? Assuming an employee has legitimate access to information, "We want to see data move seamlessly through devices, no matter what you have, in an open ecosystem," Stevenson says.

If you think Intel is an exception because as an engineering company it has unusually tech-savvy employees, think again. Stevenson notes the engineers are hardly alone in wanting to use their own technology. It's admins, accountants, operations managers, and pretty much every type of employee -- the same kinds of people found in every other company. "The familiarity they have with the technology is very important to them and a great part of their personal productivity," she says. (Stevenson does admit that the engineers love their gadgets more and tend to spend more on their personal equipment, both for higher-end gear and for frequent refreshes as new products come on the market.)

Of course, with 100,000 employees to provision, Intel hasn't crossed the line into letting employees bring in their own PCs to use instead of the corporate laptops. Employees can buy their own computers, including Macs (a popular option for employees, even in traditional Windows roles such as admins and accountants, Stevenson says) and use them for work. However, the company wants to minimize the number of install images, so employees get to choose from a handful of Windows PC models (those on the Apple account can get Macs). Employees with corporate-issued mobile devices also have a prescribed selection.

Prove you mean it: Proactive BYOD support when you walk in the door
It's one thing to allow BYOD and technology choice; it's another to promote it. Intel promotes it. For example, it has set up technology vending machines in many of its lobbies that employees can use to replace a cable or other peripheral when needed. Not only is it convenient for the employees and reduces IT support efforts, it sends the message every time an employee walks in that Intel really wants them to make their technology choices.

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