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Every organization handles the consumerization of the enterprise differently, depending on its size, the industry it's in and the nature of its data.
Ernie Huber saw those differences firsthand earlier this year, when he moved from his job as a CIO at an industrial manufacturer to Slalom Consulting, a Seattle-based technology firm. The companies' approaches to the consumerization of the enterprise were as different as the size and distribution of their workforces: Slalom has about 2,000 employees spread out across the country, whereas Huber's previous employer had 45,000 global employees.
Huber shared his perspectives on how two companies handle consumerization differently, from mobility management to cloud support and more:
Is the consumerization of the enterprise overall a positive or negative, and what’s the hardest part to deal with?
Overall it's positive, and the main reason is that it's forcing technology professionals to rethink our approach. Traditionally, we wouldn't have the users really dictating or demanding what they wanted. Now, because of this movement, they've gained some authority. That may be too strong a term, because in the end IT has the control, but because so many other companies are opening it up to being consumer-driven, it's forcing everyone's hand to get on board.
It's making them think about the speed with which you can adapt to new technology that's coming out, but that's the hardest part. Because there are so many options for consumers to choose from, and the pace at which it changes is so dramatic compared to older technologies, it's very difficult to keep up.
How would you describe your approach to the consumerization of the enterprise?
I've seen two different approaches. Previously in my experience at a much bigger company, it was more reactive. They weren't really pushing [consumerization], but they realized that it was inevitable. And they had to figure out a way to put certain controls in place to allow it, but not put the company at risk. They had a little more ability to push back and say, "Well, why do you really need mobile access? You're in an office all day long."
But where I'm working now, I'd say they're fully embracing it, and other than having a company-issued laptop, all other devices that you want to have are bring your own devices. And you can choose whatever you want, and you can connect it through the IT department. They've got some controls in place, but this is a smaller company, and most of the workforce here is working remotely from a client location. So there's a stronger business case because [employees] are not in a company-owned or managed location the majority of the time.
When I joined here, they didn't say, "Here are your only choices." They said, "Go get yourself a smartphone. If you want to connect a tablet, get that too."
Do you support employees using personal mobile devices for work? If so, what do you mean by support?
In my previous experience, support for personal devices was mostly limited to email and calendar and contacts. There were corporate-approved applications that you downloaded on your device and the IT department sort of helped support that, with installation and some troubleshooting. But a lot of those applications that you could put on your personal device and use for work were supplied by enterprise software vendors, like Concur or Salesforce. And in most cases, as an IT group we'd rely on the vendors to do a lot of the true user support from a functionality perspective.
My experience here in my new environment is that the connectivity is supported and the apps are developed in-house, pushed out to employees and supported.
Does your company have a BYOD/mobile device policy?
In [my previous employer's] case, it was more or an overall technology usage policy, and then they put out an addendum when they decided to allow people to connect their personal devices. The policy was pretty broad, as far as laptop usage. As far as the BYOD aspects to it, it was primarily about the security controls that would need to be put in place. If you wanted to connect a personal device, you had to adhere to the password controls. You had to have a certain password strength. You had to agree to remote wipe if you left the company or lost the device.
Do you let employees use consumer-focused cloud services such as Dropbox? Have you looked into enterprise services?
In my experience, both [companies] have tolerated it, but it's discouraged. It's not endorsed. It's not supported. The companies were already offering or looking to identify alternatives, like extending out SharePoint via [Microsoft] SkyDrive or looking at Box.
The big concern is around putting company information in personal cloud storage areas. When someone leaves the company, we have no way of wiping that. What I didn't want to do at my previous workplace was cut everyone off, because I realized there was a need there that we weren't supplying folks. But at the same time, [we needed] to get a corporate-approved solution in place that met [users'] needs, but put more control in place and reduced the risk to the enterprise information.
If you're an IT pro who wants to share your experiences with consumerization in a future Q&A, email Margaret Jones, assistant site editor.