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"Bring Your Own Technology" Is In Your Future Wed 13 Oct 10

IT leaders need to start thinking in terms of users making their own technology choices.

Consider the concept of BYOT, or Bring Your Own Technology.  The premise is that instead of IT dictating the supported computing platforms and cellphones, users will make their own selection based on what best meets their needs or preferences.

As a result you may have PCs, Macs, iPads and their coming slate competitors, iPhones, Droids and Blackberrys within your environment, and you'll be expected to support all of them.  Add to the myriad various models of each device and it becomes a mind boggling array of technology.

A couple of things are driving this trend.  The first is the consumerization of IT.  It used to be that the workplace had the best technology.  A consumer couldn't afford to have the type of technology used at work.  Now the best technology is within the reach of all and is coming at us in new forms and capabilities at a dizzying pace.  People are logically asking why they can't use the same technologies at work that they use at home.

The second driver is cloud applications like Salesforce.com and Google Docs.  These apps divorce themselves from the corporate data center and are accessible on just about any computing platform.  So users logically ask, “Why do I have to use only IT's standard?”

The third driver is VDI, or virtual desktop infrastructure, which allows IT to in effect convert client-server applications into cloud-like applications.  This separates the application from the hardware, allowing many hardware configurations to run the application.

While these seem like compelling arguments it hasn't gotten a lot of traction with IT departments yet.  I was recently at an IT conference and this topic came up during a panel discussion.  For the most part the panel members and the audience alike hadn't really done much in terms of BYOT other than a few that were experimenting the BYOT for cell phones.

Why isn't IT jumping on the BYOT bandwagon?  For the same reasons that IT created those uncompromising standards for technology that everyone likes to complain about in the first place.  Namely, cost control and security.

Cost control is a two-part issue.  The first part is the cost of the equipment itself and how we manage it.  Some users want the latest and most popular technology, swapping it out again and again.  How much is the company willing to fund? Does it only fund a set amount per year?

The second part of the cost issue is perhaps more perplexing to IT.  With the ever increasing pressure on IT to control costs, how do we do this when we don't control the technology choices  users are making?  Creating a support organization for all platforms is costly and daunting concept.

The security question isn't so much about the security of the applications itself.  We've been handling this for a long time and can control who sees what data and what they can do it within the application.

However, if we open up the platform we don't necessarily know how strong it is, how the users have configured it, how secure they've made it, where else they're using it and what else they're using it for.  A pretty scary scenario, indeed.  With the increasing sophistication of worms, rootkit hacking, malware and zero day attacks on operating systems, IT is understandably reluctant to open this up.

While we may have valid reasons for not jumping on the BYOT bandwagon right now, we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking this will just go away.  As the consumerization effect continues to grow and technology evolves further this may become practical in some situations.

IT leaders would be well advised to monitor this situation and in the meantime take a look at expanding the standard offerings as a way of giving more choices.  We should also be trying VDI to see where it makes sense.

Like a lot of other "hyped" concepts BYOT isn't the universal answer but it just might be the answer for some situations.  Our job as IT leaders is to figure that out and not get caught up in the hype.

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This article is also posted on Forbes.com.  Feel free to join in the discussion either on this site or at Forbes.com

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