High-tech consumer products and services of all kinds are making their way into the workplace. These include everything from smart phones, voice-over-IP (voIP) systems and flash memory sticks to virtual online worlds. As people grow more accustomed to having personal technology at their beck and call, they cannot imagine functioning without it. The line between what they use for work and what they use for recreation is blurring.
In a recent survey survey of corporate users by Yankee Group Research, 86% of the respondents said they had used at least one consumer technology in the workplace, for purposes related to both innovation and productivity.
Unfortunately, this trend poses problems for IT organisations. Firstly, the use of these technologies increases the risk of security breaches within the workplace. Secondly, users expect IT departments to support these devices and services, especially when employees interact with applications in the corporate environment.
In many companies, it would be against corporate culture to simply ban the devices or to block employees from accessing consumer services. But companies cannot simply depend on self-regulation to maintain the level of security needed.
"I don't know of any business where employees have the time to read and comprehend every single policy related to a computer in their environment, they're busy doing their jobs." said Sharon Finney, information security administrator. "I consider it my responsibility to implement things that make security seamless, easy and completely in the background."
Michael Miller, vice president of telco Global Crossing, waited until the devices or services affected productivity, such as the security department battling worms or dealing with bandwidth issues. No matter what companies decide to do, the response involves a balance of enabling employee productivity, abiding by the corporate culture, saving IT's departments resources and ensuring security levels remain high.
Josh Holbrook, an analyst at Yankee Group argues:"Consumerisation will be a nightmare for IT departments, creating maintenance and support problems that will swiftly overwhelm IT resources, unless they embrace new approaches to managing the rogue employees," Holbrook equates banning the use of consumer technologies in the workplace with "an endless game of whack-a-mole." Simultaneously, he says, ignoring the adoption of such technologies would lead to a potentially hazardous mix of secured and unsecured applications within a corporate enterprise. He proposes ceding control control to end users via an internal customer care cooperative model.
To help you decide how to respond, below are eight popular consumer technologies and services that have crept into the workplace and provide some insight into how companies are achieving the balance of security, productivity and sanity.