Who’s in charge of mobility?

IT standards for business mobility have long centered on giving users laptops and a BlackBerry for accessing email when and where they wanted. Enterprise users have traditionally had two personas: users of technologies which make them more productive at work, and consumers of technologies which make life convenient and entertaining. Until recently, those two personas were distinct. But now, with the advent of consumer smartphones, the demarcation between these worlds is blurring.

With the emergence of blockbuster devices, the mobile phone landscape has altered, and so has the purchasing decisions consumers make when choosing devices. With smartphone options plentiful, consumer devices are bleeding over into the enterprise with or without IT's blessing. This leads to a great amount of IT angst: As users access corporate data on their personal devices, the chance of data being lost or stolen increases significantly. Furthering IT's trepidation, Apple and other vendors have licensed the handset side of the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol as the email client, thereby allowing users to easily connect their consumer smartphone to their corporate email servers.

Corporate policies for smartphones also are changing. A survey from the Aberdeen Group, which conducts research across business and technology, recently determined that 42 percent of companies allow employees to purchase devices from any vendor, compared with 40 percent of companies providing devices to their users. One year ago, 75 percent of companies supplied their employees with smartphones. Many analysts are calling this shift the “consumerization” of enterprise mobility.

This consumerization is creating new pressures and challenges for business IT. So how does IT stay relevant and embrace this new phenomenon? As a guiding principle, IT must strive to provide users with device choice while maintaining compliance with corporate mobility policies.

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