'No' Is No Longer an Acceptable IT Response

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-08-24

Judging by the recent swell of coverage of the clash between employee technology and workplace technology while IT plays both the middleman and the villain, it seems that the topic is burdening more than just technology careers writers.

An Aug. 6 report by the Yankee Group noted that 50 percent of employees reported that their personal technology was more advanced than their workplace's technology. Analysts reasoned that IT could either ban employee technology, creating an endless game of whack-a-mole, or they could manage both the technology and the rogue employee. They advocated taking a "Zen" approach.

Less reasonably, from an IT professionals prospective at least, a July 30 article in the Wall Street Journal on the topic of IT limitations of employee technology took more of a guerrilla warfare approach, providing readers with a how-to manual to make an end-run around the IT department, and painting IT pros as control freaks.

Gartner jumped onto the dog pile Aug. 15, referring to the IT challenge of managing employee-owned PCs as "anarchy knocking at the gates of IT security." In the discussion, Gartner at first advocates an unwavering response to employee demand for network access.

"As the boundary between personal and enterprise computing becomes blurred, organizations should treat all network access as potentially hostile and apply appropriate security technologies and policies," wrote Robin Simpson, Gartner research director, in the report's summary.

Yet, it goes on to rationalize that new rules are needed to allow enterprise IT assets and functions to coexist with employees' personal digital assets.

"The traditional response from the IT department was to say 'no', but that's no longer an option," Simpson said. "You can't hold back the changes being driven by your user population by force, or they will simply conspire against you. But you can't just relax control. You need to find a way to delineate between the business and personal computing worlds so they can work side-by-side and the boundary can be secured."

Increasingly, employees don't want to use corporate-owned PCs for several reasons. Among those reasons are that they prefer their own, that their user requirements are not "one size fits all," and because they are increasingly telecommuting, working as contractors or traveling and don't want to be responsible for two laptops. Gartner even predicts that by 2008, 10 percent of companies will require employee-purchased notebooks.

In the meantime, beleaguered IT pros express feeling that they are in the crosshairs of this enterprise shift, scrambling to keep their systems safe while being pitted against employees who see them as the bad guy for not, say, letting them sync their iPhone up to the network. From the sound of these reports, it won't be letting up any time soon.

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