The consumerisation of IT has been hitting the headlines for several years now, supposedly ushering in an era in which businesses are forced to adopt more consumer technology inside the office, as younger and more technically-aware users join the workforce and expect to have the same facilities at work as they do outside.
Regardless of whether or not this trend can be attributed to the demands of Generation Y employees, enterprises cannot continue to use old, outdated models for delivering IT services, according to Bryan Jones, Dell's marketing director for public and large enterprise in EMEA.
Jones's advice to companies and IT administrators is to loosen their policies around the kind of technologies that employees can use to get their job done, but not go so far that the workplace becomes a free-for-all where everyone chooses a different device.
In other words, the consumerisation of IT is about finding the right balance, and companies need to consider carefully what approach is likely to best serve their requirements, and those of different user groups within their organisation.
"We see this whole consumerisation trend as the IT executive's fight for continued relevance in today's changing business models," said Jones.
"If the IT guys are going to stick to their traditional answer of 'any device as long as it's one of these three approved ones', I think there will be some companies that find it very difficult to find and retain talent as they go forward."
But can it really be the case that large enterprise organisations are prepared to let their IT strategy be dictated by the demands of their most junior employees?
Jones does not think it a ridiculous notion, but he played down the impression that businesses are being blackmailed by young workers demanding the right to use their iPad in the office.
"I wouldn't say they are dictating how an organisation builds their IT strategy, but they are going to be a key driving force behind that," he said.
"The knowledge workers coming out of university over the last three or four years look at technology in an entirely different light than workers before, so for an IT professional to come in and say: 'I'm only giving you a locked-down limited choice of device' is totally unacceptable to this resource that companies are competing for," he said.
The problem facing IT departments now is that the type and diversity of end-user devices has grown dramatically over the past five years or so.
Whereas a company typically had desktops, laptops and possibly some PDAs in the hands of its employees, there are now smartphones, tablets, netbooks and other devices to choose from, many of which are based on a diverse array of new operating systems.
"So, one of the biggest challenges for companies is how to provide more choice, how to embrace this consumerisation concept without breaking the bank from a cost perspective or from the [technical] support perspective," Jones said.
But while some industry pundits have advocated a complete opening up of enterprise IT provisioning, Jones said that this approach would be a big mistake. He cited a number of Dell customers, mainly in the US, that have toyed with the notion of simply giving employees a budget and allowing them to go off and source their own IT, instead of provisioning and supporting it centrally.
"That is opening yourself up to potential disaster, because you end up with hundreds of different endpoints with a huge disparity across them, and inflated support costs," Jones said.
"Do you really want a company lawyer spending time on the helpline to their laptop vendor because their hard drive failed? That's probably one of the most expensive ways that you could use that employee's time," he explained.
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