It’s Official

When we heard that Microsoft used its B2B Worldwide Partner Conference to show off phones, an iPad-like slate, and motion sensors for the Xbox video game system, it confirmed one of our latest theories and one of our customers’ biggest challenges: Consumerization has hit the corporate mainstream.

Jason Hiner, editor of TechRepublic, calls the consumerization of IT one of the industry’s key trends. When the topic first arose, “It was primarily an annoyance involving a few power users who were bringing their own Palm Treos into the enterprise and using some unauthorized Web tools to get their work done.”

But these days, corporate IT must deal with personal laptops and smartphones and a mobile workforce. The buzz around unified communications, and the growth in popularity of Web-based tools such as Evernote, Skype and Google Docs, raise questions about where your enterprise data lives and who can access it.

End users want to use their mobile tools to improve productivity without struggling to connect to the network. Enterprise IT pros must maintain the integrity of their systems while staying current on the flood of new technology. How do you achieve a balance?

Fix real problems. Great advice from CIO Update, which suggests that enterprises look at their business processes and identify situations where things like UC could solve problems, rather than picking the UC tools you want to deploy and then finding places they fit. Our recent tips for UC help identify ways to do this.

Meet users halfway. You shouldn’t let users access corporate resources from any device but consider new options – such as iPhones in addition to Blackberries – if a number of users are interested. This will limit rogue usage and lead to goodwill (and hopefully compliance) among users.

Be proactive. Create policies for consumer devices and apps. Staying one step ahead of your users will help keep sensitive corporate information safe. It’s much easier to enforce policies if they already exist, instead of creating something after the fact.

It’s no doubt the consumer force is strong and businesses are always looking for ways to improve productivity. If a user can be more productive using a traditionally “consumer” device or app, the enterprise that embraces that is likely to reap the rewards. The challenge is finding a balance between embracing user preference and maintaining security of corporate information.

Do your users push the IT envelope? How do you ensure your data is safe?

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