February 28, 2024

Workers’ Own Cellphones and iPads Find a Role at the Office

SAN FRANCISCO — Throughout the information age, the corporate I.T. department has stood at the chokepoint of office technology with a firm hand on what equipment and software employees use in the workplace.

They are now in retreat. Employees are bringing in the technology they use at home and demanding the I.T. department accommodate them. The I.T. department often complies.

Some companies have even surrendered to what is being called the consumerization of I.T. At Kraft Foods, the I.T. department’s involvement in choosing technology for employees is limited to handing out a stipend. Employees use the money to buy whatever laptop they want from Best Buy, Amazon.com or the local Apple store.

“We heard from people saying, ‘How come I have better equipment at home?’ ” said Mike Cunningham, chief technology officer for Kraft Foods. “We said, hey, we can address that.”

Encouraging employees to buy their own laptops, or bring their mobile phones and iPads from home, is gaining traction in the workplace. A survey published on Thursday by Forrester Research found that 48 percent of information workers buy smartphones for work without considering what their I.T. department supports. By being more flexible, companies are hoping that workers will be more comfortable with their devices and therefore more productive.

“Bring your own device” policies, as they are called, are also shifting the balance of power among electronics makers. Manufacturers good at selling to consumers are increasingly gaining the upper hand, while those focused on bulk corporate sales are slipping.

The phenomenon is upending the corporate market, which has traditionally hinged on electronics makers cultivating tight relationships with I.T. departments. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, have long dominated the workplace, but Apple and its consumer-friendly blockbusters — the iPhone, iPad and MacBook — have made major inroads.

It’s not just electronics. A variety of online services that were originally aimed at consumers are crossing over. Google is hoping that people using its Gmail and Google Docs products will produce a guerrilla movement inside corporations strong enough to displace Microsoft and its Office suite of software.

Skype, the Internet calling service that started as a way to call friends at no charge, is pushing into the workplace. Dropbox, originally pitched as a way for people to store and share personal documents online, has also gained a foothold in businesses.

“You shouldn’t reject things that make employees more productive, and if those things happen to be consumer technologies, so be it,” said Ted Schadler, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Corporate I.T. departments often resist allowing consumer technology on their networks because of security concerns. Adding a hodgepodge of devices and services also complicates their job.

But I.T. departments are gradually warming to the idea simply because their bosses left them little choice. The I.T. staff may grieve for their lost power, but they do it.

“They’re over the denial and anger stage, and now they are in the acceptance and ‘How can we help?’ stage,” said Mr. Schadler, who co-wrote the book “Empowered,” which addresses consumer technology in the workplace. “What broke the camel’s back was the iPad, because executives brought it into the company and said ‘Hey, you’ve got to support this.’ ”

A survey of more than 1,700 information workers earlier this year by Forrester showed how much of the equipment-buying decision rests with employees. Nearly half of the respondents said that they bought their work smartphone while 41 percent said their employer paid; 9 percent said the cost was shared between the two.

Netflix’s “bring your own device” policy takes into account the blurring of the lines between work and personal time.

“As long as they’re productive, innovative and engaged, we’re happy,” said Steve Swasey, a spokesman for Netflix. Kraft Foods’ “bring your own laptop” policy started a year and half ago, and now around 800 employees receive a stipend — Kraft declined to say how much — to buy either a Windows or Mac computer. Workers who want laptops that cost more than their stipend must pay for the difference out of their own pockets.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f3e15c235edc078dbc6bc9888526561e

Speak Your Mind