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Will Workers Lead The Next IT Revolution?

By Larry Barrett  |  Posted 2007-07-06 Print this article Print

The arrival of Apple's iPhone underscores how chief information officers must develop strategies to manage consumer devices and popular Web applications.

Sales of the much-hyped iPhone handsets have exceeded their admittedly ambitious estimates, say analysts and Apple Inc. executives. Now corporate chief information officers are bracing for another wave of security and compatibility issues as employees bring their shiny new gadgets into the enterprise.

While Apple isn't saying exactly how many iPhones were sold in the first five days, analysts from several equity research firms predict between 500,000 and 700,000 units have made their way into consumers' hands. Apple CEO Steve Jobs says the company expects to sell 10 million units by 2008, enough to garner 1% of the worldwide market for handsets.

According to a recent report from consultancy Gartner Inc., the iPhone is just the most recent consumer-driven product compelling CIOs to develop new strategies for managing the onslaught of products and Web-based applications making their way onto the corporate network.

This "consumerization" of the network means CIOs have to figure the best way to balance the security of the network with the needs of employees who have and will continue to become reliant on these products for work and personal use.

"To a certain extent, CIOs are happy with the iPhone and all these other consumer products," says Jackie Fenn, an analyst at Gartner. "Employees are doing their job for them by testing and evaluating these products. Whether it's the iPhone or IM [instant messaging] or any of the PDAs, employees are finding out what works and what's useful for becoming more productive at home and at work."

And while some companies ban the use of certain consumer-developed products and applications, the prohibition is almost impossible to enforce despite potential threats to the network and the certain loss of productivity most employees experience while learning how to use their new gadget in the enterprise.

"Once employees start bringing all this hardware and software into the enterprise, there are always different challenges for CIOs to address in terms of scalability, security and compliance," Fenn says. "That's why the I.T. managers, along with executive management, need to think about long-term strategies for dealing with all this. Today it's the iPhone. In another year or less, it will be something else."

What strategy should CIOs put in place to deal with consumer technologies? Write to editors@baselinemag.com

Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.
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