Art King, a burly and affable senior IT exec for Nike, doesn't look much like a revolutionary. But don't be fooled -- King is leading the charge for change. He's pushing the brass at Nike and as many other IT leaders as he can buttonhole to open the corporate gates to a plethora of mobile devices owned and largely provisioned by employees.
"We can't put users in jail, we can't impact the user's experience. We have to change, and I love it," he said during a discussion at the GigaOm Mobilize conference in San Francisco this week.
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Nike's IT department, which supports more than 30,000 users around the globe, is rapidly finding ways to move beyond the trendy talk of BYOD, or bring your own device, and make employee-owned smartphones and tablets a normal part of day-to-day operations.
With business users gobbling up handhelds -- a recent survey by Forrester Research found that 48 percent of knowledge workers will buy mobile devices whether their company approves or not -- employees simply don't want to put up with old ways of doing things. Says King: "Users say to me, 'Why is everything I do in my personal [computing] life like snapping my fingers, but everything at work takes years?'"
Another giant, Cisco Systems, whose IT department supports more than 50,000 employees and contractors, is moving even faster than Nike. In just two years, the networking giant has embraced a broad spectrum of mobile devices and used its internal experience as a template to develop new technologies it can sell to customers.
"The security team has a chance to step up and lead," says Tom Gillis general manager of Cisco's security and technology business unit. "If you don't, people will bring in the devices anyway and you'll [then] be hard-pressed to secure them," he tells me.