The increasing adoption of consumer devices and services in the enterprise presents IT departments with a chance to be seen as the good guys, according to Paul Domnick, CIO at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Domnick was speaking at an event held today in London to discus the consumerisation of IT and its impact on enterprises, from security to data management to employee happiness and productivity.
The consumerisation of IT has been rising up to corporate agenda recently, driven by increasing use of smartphones such as Apple's iPhone or HTC devices and tablets, again dominated by an Apple device, this time the iPad.
Add into the mix services such as Twitter and Facebook and you have a situation where end users get a much better tech experience at home than at work.
So what do they do? Bring those devices to work and access those social networks at the office. Quite often the use of iPads in the office is driven by C-level execs who want to be able to access their emails and important files on their shiny new toy, so for the IT department saying 'no' isn't an option.
By setting out on a long-term project to not only support and encourage the use of personal devices but produce apps and other services that help workers to get on with their jobs, companies can help to create a happy and productive workforce. The key to this is engagement with end users, as they are the ones benefiting from it.
"It's a chance for IT to be seen as great," Domnick said. "If IT listens to what end-users want they can go away and then come back with something that will surprise and delight the rest of the business."
This was backed up by Nick McGuire, research director for EMEA enterprise mobility and M2M at analyst house IDC. "You need a roadmap for your mobile strategy," he said. "Where do you want to be in three years? You also need to understand your user base, as in who gets what. It sounds very simplistic but it often gets overlooked. This can be used as a force for good."
One other aspect of the roadmap that companies need to address is the security angle; many feel it is simply too risky to have all that valuable data held on mobile devices that can be left on trains or in taxis or simply stolen.
Domnick suggested that the industry is shifting from protecting the devices or infrastructure to protecting the data that is on them. It may have been easier to protect the devices but it's the data that is valuable.
This echoes what IronKey CEO Art Wong told CBR earlier this year. "There are new threats evolving in the market, threats that, to be honest, companies like Symantec, McAfee and Trend Micro just don't protect against," Wong told CBR. "When you're talking about protection and AV at the end point to protect the device itself... it's a lost battle. You're never going to be able to secure against zero-day threats and other attacks in an adequate way."
"We feel [protecting the data] is more important than protecting the device itself. It's really the data and the access to it that is critical," Wong added.
Bryan Littlefair, global chief information security officer for Vodafone Group, who hosted today's event, said his company had made the shift from protecting the device to securing the data held on it. "You need to understand the context of the data," he added. "What will embarrass the company if it goes missing, what's valuable and so on. Companies need to work with the security. For example if you have a password prompt pop up every 30 seconds users will look for a way around it.
"You can't have a secure mobile platform if you don't understand what sensitive data you have and where it it," Littlefair concluded.