Bring your own tech: IT's missed opportunity

Employees bring their own devices, technology, and clouds because IT fell down on a big responsibility: providing leadership

Employees have been bringing their own devices and technologies into the workplace in greater numbers over the past few years, for a simple reason with less than simple root causes: The technology they can bring in is superior to the technology IT provides.

Now, they are "bringing their own cloud" -- subscribing to cloud-based services on their own and using them on the job. BYOD, BYOT, BYOC? It's enough to drive even the strongest CIO to BYOB.

[ Find out the 10 business skills every IT pro must master. | Get expert advice about planning and implementing your BYOD strategy with InfoWorld's 29-page "Mobile and BYOD Deep Dive" PDF special report. | For more of Bob Lewis' continuing IT management wisdom, check out his Advice Line blog and newsletter. ]

BYOD (or BYOT) came about because of four challenges IT departments have faced for years. It should have evolved out of the enormous opportunity they represent -- one you can still take advantage of.

BYOC is different. It should be and can be completely unnecessary. It's emerging as a workplace trend because IT is falling down on the job. All that's needed to make BYOC unnecessary is a complete change in attitude on the part of IT leadership. But to do that, we have to know where we went wrong -- and that happened well before the first employee-owned device logged on to the corporate network.

Here is a look at the four challenges at the center of BYOD/BYOT and how to prevent the third phase, BYOC, from ever being a factor.

Challenge No. 1: Budget-starved IT

Constantly challenged to make airtight business cases for everything, IT has done everything possible to stretch its personal-tech budget. Thus, employees use aging desktop and laptop computers, with obsolete versions of the operating system and standard software suites. They're jokes compared to what most have at home, except that jokes are supposed to be funny.

At the same time, IT still provides company BlackBerrys, while everyone else has figured out that BlackBerry is now an industry joke -- once again, except for the funny part.

Company-provided tablets? What about "budget-starved" did you miss? CIOs who can't even afford to keep desktops current aren't about to divert their tech budget to yet another category of device.

Challenge No. 2: Lockdown, aka the Value Prevention Society

Locking down employee desktops is called a "best practice" in the information security trade -- except it isn't. For the best information security, implement what used to be called an air-gap firewall, "air-gap" being a euphemism for "unplugged from the Internet." Disable the USB ports, too, and just to be on the safe side, remove the PC's power supply; now you have a truly secure device.

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