An interesting byproduct of the so-called consumerization of enterprise IT is a movement to let at least some employees buy and support their own tech gear.
A recent CIO Insight article refers to the trend as "do-it-yourself IT" and offers Eli Lilly, BT and law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as examples of companies that give employees "allowances"to spend on the hardware they want. Employees are expected to support it themselves, thus sparing the IT department the hassle and expense of doing so.
A VP of business innovation at Unisys estimates companies could reduce their annual IT budgets by up to 30 percent with this approach. The key, he says, is "adopting a phased approach that makes sense for the organization."
IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle advocates the concept, likening it to companies that once provided fleets of automobiles for their employees. Few companies do this anymore, he notes, though many provide some employees with auto expense allowances and reimburse them for mileage.
Enderle's blog focuses on laptops rather than cell phones and PDAs, which appear to be the primary focus of the CIO Insight article. He opines that virtualization makes this approach more feasible, since it would allow IT to create a consistent computing environment it could support and still give employees freedom of choice. What is needed, Enderle says, is something like a USB-connected hard drive, and he points to a product called Mojopac.
IT Business Edge VP and blogger Ken-Hardin finds all kinds of snags in this approach, among them the issue of asking workers, in essence, to pay for the uptime their employers expect.
The Unisys VP suggests in the CIO Insight article that cell phones, rather than laptops, are a logical place to start a DIY IT program, which could please workers who covet iPhones. Interestingly, while Gartner supports the concept of DIY IT, it has been advising companies to steer clear of the iPhone.
One of Gartner's objections to the iPhone is its lack of a firewall, and employees who buy and support their own tech gear would seemingly introduce all kinds of unexpected security risks into the corporate environment. Enderle responds to this idea by noting that plenty of existing hardware that is, in theory, under corporate lockdown is far from secure.
Indeed, whether or not companies decide to let some employees purchase their own gear, it seems inevitable that they will have to decide how to handle technology deployed under the corporate radar.