BYOT - Encouraging CIOs to BYOB

Well, maybe it won't drive you to drink, but you may want to locate the headache pills.

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) or the consumerization of technology is currently a very active item in the technology blogs. This trend was forecast by Gartner Group and others at least 3 years ago, indicating that by 2010 over one half of endpoint technology decisions would be made by the end user.

The rising capabilities of smart phones, tablets, and other devices have made them infinitely more productive for users than the 4 year old company assigned laptop computer. Couple that with an overwhelming onslaught of advertising encouraging everyone from your boss to your grandmother to go out and get one of these things along with an increased expectation that this will "just work" on your network, it is no wonder that CIOs and IT Directors are wringing their hands about this catastrophic lack of control.

But is losing control such a bad thing?

Just in case you think that I've substituted the ASA for PCP, let me explain.

If you feel your role as an IT leader is to fortify your world against the onslaught of these devices, treat this as a choose your own adventure and advance to the next posting, but if you are at all intrigued, read on.

Firstly, we have no reason to be surprised by the concept of BYOT. It has been in the tech press for years.

Yes, years.

Secondly, BYOT is not a golden opportunity to offload hardware costs to the end user. Those of you in education will understand what I mean by this.

BYOT must fit into your strategy of making your organization more productive, more nimble, and more profitable (Or more efficient if you are a NPO or government). It is not about being cool.

Being comfortable with BYOT involves a major shift in perception about what the IT department really does. And this change is not done by your end users, but you.

Simply put, we no longer control machines, but manage the environment in which people use them.

Sorry Sheldon, IT is now about people, and how they use technology.

So how do we manage? Before you go out an create a bunch of silly rules and unenforceable policies (See DON’T READ THIS POST!!! for my comments on this subject), make sure you are managing the right thing. Hint, it's not about managing the end users.

Move the management to the network layer.

One of my favourite quotes (attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller) says "Don't expect people to do the right things. What you need to do is to make the right thing, the easiest thing to do." Good advice for network design.

Have you designed your network to allow appropriate access, and protect your core information and systems? In the SME world, this isn't always a given. It is amazing how many IT shops haven't implemented segmentation of traffic, or management tools to monitor and manage the traffic that flows over the network. Many have good practices, but I'm not surprised when I hear "we are getting around to it" when I talk to CIOs and Directors.

Today's firewalls and management tools provide a great deal of ability for a SME to have an awareness of what is going on over the network. You may also want to consider a real time monitoring tool such as Tri-Geo Networks device, that will proactively protect your network (e.g. shut down compromised ports) even before it notifies you.

I could go on ad infinitum, but I think I've made my point. Quit controlling machines, and start managing your environment to be flexible, extensible, and secure, while making your user community more productive, successful, and innovative (in a good way). There are some major pitfalls to manage in the BYOT environment. I'll work on them in a future post.

I know there are significant requirements for many IT leaders around compliance, handling sensitive information, and security but if they can figure out how to give President Obama a Blackberry, I'm sure the smart people on your team can figure out how to maintain the security and compliance of your environment.

This post was one of my entries in Computerworld Canada's 2001 Blog Idol contest.


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