'I need a new smartphone! My old one, uh, broke'

When IT hinted it would replace BlackBerrys, employees at one company turned into clumsy, scheming butterfingers -- then reality hit

Join in if you know the words: Users lust after the bleeding edge of technological coolness; companies want to wait until a new technology has proven itself and the current hardware dies of old age before upgrading. Meanwhile, IT pros must manage the middle ground between them. In the days before "BYOD" and "consumerization of IT" became catchphrases, a bout of tech envy swept through my workplace and made otherwise sane employees do stupid things, while taking the bean counters by surprise.

I worked at a large enterprise where all salespeople and managers had company-issued BlackBerrys, the old blue model that was so huge it barely fit in a person's pocket. The devices had no special features at all. They did email and phone -- period.

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To the bean counters' delight and the employees' angst, these models were also tanks. They very seldom died of natural causes, usually meeting their demise by theft or negligence -- say, drowning. The employee would receive a replacement device that was the same model. Overall, we didn't have to replace the PDAs very often.

The company had been using a more expensive yet reliable carrier for cellular service, and signal issues were rare in the city. But as technology improved, the company explored ways to decrease expenses.

In time, the company switched to a low-cost, bottom-of-the-barrel cellular carrier to provide service for all new BlackBerry lines. Since the director of IT wasn't sure how well the new carrier would work out and an expense was involved in the transition of each line, we made the switch on an as-needed basis, seeding the environment with guinea pigs. If the new carrier worked out well, then we would proceed with a full-scale rollout.

The users set up on the new carrier were all new hires, as well as anyone needing a replacement BlackBerry; at first, only a couple of employees fit the latter category. All requests were to be routed through the purchasing department. However, those planning the switch had either overlooked or underestimated one little detail: tech envy.

Here's where it got complicated. Employees placed on the cheaper carrier received a brand-new, awesome-looking compact BlackBerry Curve that could browse the Internet, play MP3s and videos, and even had a camera. (Cue angels singing.)

A newly hired manager was the first to receive one of the new BlackBerrys. Instantly, other users started to drool. They wanted it. Badly.

Within the first month of working with the new carrier, there was an explosion of mysterious BlackBerry "issues." Like pill addicts lining up at a pain clinic, people showed up at the IT department with their old BlackBerrys, complaining of vague problems.

"It's so slow -- it takes forever for my email to come through."

"I drop calls all the time."

"The battery doesn't last very long."

"The sound quality is horrible."

Forget troubleshooting efforts, though -- they soon revealed what they were really after. "Can I get one of those new BlackBerrys?"

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