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Consumerization of IT Poorly Understood?

Unisys-sponsored study shows employers aren't tuned in to what and how many consumer technologies their employees are using in the workplace.

Is there a "reality gap" between how many personal devices and unauthorized third-party applications employees use and how many IT thinks they use? A new Unisys-sponsored survey conducted by IDC says the reality gap exists and IT departments would be well-advised to look at ways to close or eliminate it.

The survey of nearly 650 global IT decision-makers showed that organizations frequently are not aware of what technologies their employees are using and how they're being used. Despite this apparent reality gap, 73 percent of the IT executives surveyed described their networks as very secure. The survey also showed IT is generally not doing much to integrate these consumer technologies -- smartphones, social networks, etc. -- into their enterprise.

A separate Unisys-sponsored study highlights the challenge IT faces in getting a better handle on the consumerization of IT trend. The study of 2,820 workers in 10 countries found that tech-savvy information workers often blur home and work in their use of consumer devices and Web-based social media applications.

These so-called "iWorkers" in the study said they are investing their own time and money in advanced consumer devices, including the iPhone and other smartphones, because they are often more powerful than those provided by their employers.

On average, these iWorkers use four consumer devices and multiple third-party applications, such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, in the course of their day and use them interchangeably for business and personal activities.

"The research shows a profound disconnect between what iWorkers are doing with consumer technologies in the enterprise and what IT leaders believe is happening in their organizations," John Gantz, senior vice president and chief research officer at IDC, said in a statement. "As the old adage goes, you cannot manage what you don’t measure. IT leaders cannot effectively secure, manage or plan for the future without an accurate understanding of the trend and its implications."

Gantz predicts the consumerization of IT trend will turn existing IT and business models "on their heads" and said enterprises would be well-advised to start preparing for the transition.

The survey echoes results in a recently-released survey of IT security professionals, sponsored by Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), which highlighted the security and management threats posed by the growing use of personal devices like smartphones on corporate networks.

About 40 percent of IT security decision makers in the Cisco survey (which covered the U.S. and four other countries), said they'd experienced a breach or loss of information due to an unsupported network device.

Colin Lacey, vice president of data center transformation services and solutions at Unisys (NYSE: UIS), said the survey results shows there's a need for IT to first acknowledge there's a disconnect between what it believed is being used on the network and reality of employees tapping Web services and using their own devices.

"Just trying to clamp down or restrict access isn't the best way to approach this trend. You have to find a happy medium," Lacey told InternetNews.com.

Lacey said companies risk falling behind competitors if they ignore or restrict these consumer technologies. For example, a little over ten percent of the iWorkers surveyed said they would refuse to accept a position at an organization that didn't allow external instant messaging. "The expectation of each generation of workers is quite distinct," he said.

Lacey also said the adoption of consumer technology presents an opportunity for companies to take advantage of the investment employees have made to reduce their capital expenses. "The key is to understand what's out there and build a policy and strategy that reflects this new way of working," he said.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: Facebook, iPhone, iphone apps, smartphone, IT culture


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