Saying No to the Executive with an iPhone

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Last week I helped out with a podcast focused on helping IT keep iPhones from connecting to their corporate networks.


The iPhone isn't designed to connect to a corporate network, and it clearly won't work seamlessly with Exchange, yet we all know that executives seldom take "no" for an answer.


We discussed and agreed on a series of ways to avoid the pain this device is likely to cause and suggested the following defenses:


Generation 1.0 Defense


People shouldn't buy generation 1.0 products, particularly those that haven't had a broad beta cycle (Apple has a bad history here).


IT avoids products in this class like the plague and generally has an official or unofficial policy against them. Cite the policy as a reason not to comply and require a level-C written approval for policy exceptions.


Point out that if the phone causes a network outage or major problem, the executive approving the exception will be at risk; the need to use a phone that is primarily designed as an entertainment device will likely be questioned.


You can also point out that a second-generation iPhone is due in October that will likely be better, and a third-generation phone, which may actually work with the corporate e-mail system, will probably be out early in the new year.


This should give the executive time to find something that is more appropriate for his use than an entertainment phone.


Provide Alternatives


There are a number of phones that likely are already approved for use with company assets. Make sure the list is updated for current products like the recent BlackBerries, Samsung, Motorola and HTC phones.


Often all the executive wants is something new and different, and if you can find something that actually works with your systems, you'll be vastly happier -- as will the executive.


Cell phones can be very personal and making sure executives have approved current-generation alternatives can go a long way to avoiding the pain of trying to get a device that wasn't designed to integrate working with your services.


Use Exchange Web Access


Exchange has decent access over the Web and the iPhone does have a fully featured browser. Problem is, Safari isn't known for being particularly good with Web standards. So you may get some initial breakage until the phone is patched (it could work fine though). In any case, this will largely mitigate the compatibility problems and shouldn't be any greater exposure than someone using a borrowed PC in a hotel or airport. (And given those machines may be running key loggers, the iPhone could, in this case, actually be safer).


While it is likely better to use a compliant product there are executives that don't take "NO" for an answer and, for them, this is likely the safest path.


Compliance Test


This is a good way to get yourself a company-paid iPhone.


Bring a device in for full testing and provide the results of the test to the executives that want the phone. Include the cost for making the phone compliant and suggest, given this is a personal device, they pay for this cost personally. Cost could run well into the thousands and, given this is really a personal device; it would be justified to charge them back for it.


You may eventually have to do this anyway if the phone remains popular but this process at least gives you breathing room and may allow you to hold off actually supporting these phones until the better 2nd or 3rd generation devices.


Just Say "NO"


Life isn't perfect and the company is not supposed to be run for any single executive. Granted if it's the CEO that's asking this path could be career limiting, but for everyone else just say no. The phone isn't designed for business, it is designed for entertainment and the company doesn't buy and support personal DVD players either.


Stand up and point out that costs and expenses are required to be connected to the business and that personal use of company resources is both against company policy and is as ethically wrong as not reporting options backdating or stealing company assets for personal use.


If someone wanted to connect their Portable Sony Playstation (PSP) or Apple PC, to the network you'd tell them "no" in a heartbeat. This is primarily a cell phone for entertainment and has no business using up corporate resources. If you really push them to justify the device they should realize this doesn't make good business sense and back down. Of course, when they don't, well that's the life of an IT manager, sometimes you do have to do the impossible.


Wrapping Up


Requests to support hot products happen a lot and are likely to accelerate. As much fun as supporting products like this would likely be, it is best to have a few responses in your tool kit to prevent you from having to expensively support devices that were never designed to work in your shop.