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

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Except for one thing: Why would any employee donate a portion of their personal equipment to their employer?

The answer is simple and obvious: Offer a personal technologies subsidy -- say, $600 once every three years toward the purchase of a laptop computer, plus company-provided copies of Microsoft Office and Outlook, configured by IT to work with both the company's Exchange servers and the employee's preferred email system. Companies accustomed to providing BlackBerrys might also offer a smartphone subsidy, put together in similar form -- tablets, too.

Do the math: $200 per employee per year for a laptop is a lot less than IT currently spends. IT could then use the savings to make the modest security and support improvements necessary now that employees use their own equipment.

What BYOC should have been

The question: Why do employees want to "bring their own cloud"? Why do they want Dropbox, Google Apps, Gmail, and for that matter, Skype?

Answer: Because they can use them to do things they can't accomplish with the limited toolkit most IT shops provide.

Start with SharePoint or whatever general-purpose CMS you prefer. If you have it and properly support it, there's no reason anyone would use Dropbox or Google Apps instead. SharePoint does everything Google Apps does and a lot more besides.

How about Gmail? Here's a bet: If you have employees who surreptitiously establish Gmail accounts for business use, they do it because IT has placed a ludicrously small limit on Exchange storage (and probably hasn't explained how to use links to SharePoint instead of attachments).

The solution is cheap: Open up everyone's local encrypted hard drive for .pst files, and set up easy backup for everyone, perhaps to an inexpensive NAS device. Storage costs less than 14 cents per gigabyte. We don't have to be stingy with it anymore. Yes, you have to manage it, except no, you can't because your employees are moving their messages to Gmail anyway, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Then there's Skype. Employees use it because a Web conferencing solution still can't be used for ad hoc calls, and they probably have to go through an administrative procedure to schedule them. For most of them, most of the time, Skype is more than good enough. It gives them video calling and even lets them share their desktop, more or less.

Think you can't afford it? Sure you can. Compared to your savings from not having to own so many PCs anymore, Skype for everyone is a pittance.

Employees don't bring their own cloud to spite IT. They bring it because IT hasn't listened to them when they've explained how they want to work. Worse, they bring it because IT has failed to anticipate their needs. As we're supposed to provide information technology leadership to the company, that's a very serious failure.

This story, "Bring your own tech: IT's missed opportunity," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis' Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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