There was a time, not so long ago, when a major challenge for IT departments was making sure that users didn't take corporate software home in violation of licence agreements. That gave way to the challenge of making sure that employees didn't bring software from home into work and install it on their desktop PCs.

Today, users' technical sophistication is such that they often have better technology at home than they have in the office. That situation has led some businesses to allow users to bring their personal laptops to work. Some have gone beyond that concept by letting users buy their own PCs for work, with some corporate subsidy. It's an idea that deserves consideration in more IT departments.

One advantage of what is often referred to as BYOPC, or bring your own PC , is that it frees IT from carrying the capital expense of a lot of resources. It also neutralises the problem of trying to make one size fit all in a way that's appealing to users. Users appreciate being given a choice, and there's plenty of choice in the marketplace to assure that every user can find the machine that best fits his needs.

Naturally, a lot of IT departments are going to think BYOPC sounds like an expensive proposition that leads to a proliferation of varied devices to support. But any corporate purchase programmes should include guidelines, as well as recommended vendors and systems, that aim to avoid unruly proliferation while still giving users an ample number of choices. As long as IT manages the standard software loads and enforces security policy, the cost of allowing far more diversity in machines, and even platforms, becomes relatively minor over time. And by setting a cap on expenditures and reimbursements, IT can keep costs under control. A good rule of thumb is to allow for a new device every 12 to 18 months, depending on how the asset depreciates.

A well-organised BYOPC program can help IT make users happy, no small thing for a department in constant danger of reorganisation and outsourcing. Properly done, it can be an easy way to make friends and win internal support. BYOPC programs generally subsidise laptops, with the policy being that users can also make personal use of the machine (which only makes sense, since we all know that users already commingle their business and personal information on their devices). If a lot of your users are now restricted to desktop machines, the change could provide a boost in productivity, since laptop users are more likely to work beyond business hours.

Many companies already give their users the freedom to choose their own smartphones and carriers. BYOPC isn't really a huge leap beyond that. I expect it to become a trend that we will see implemented with greater and greater frequency.

Are you letting users buy their own PCs? Share your experiences and best practices in the comments.