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Consumer smartphones pushing midmarket CIOs to adopt: News podcast

Midmarket employees are purchasing new consumer smartphones and looking to link them up with work applications. CIOs need to learn about the smartphone technologies employees are using in order to create educated policies about use.

Listen in as Zach Church, former news writer for SearchCIO-Midmarket.com, reports on how employees are purchasing the latest smartphone technologies -- and how that will affect your company. Personal use of iPhones, BlackBerrys and the rest is on the rise, and employees want to synch up their work applications with their new toys.

Read how employees want to synch smartphones with work applications.

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Consumer smartphones making inroads

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Read the full transcript of this podcast below:

Consumer smartphones pushing midmarket CIOs to adopt: News podcast

Hi, this is Zach Church, news writer for SearchCIO-Midmarket.com.

It is the allure of smartphones, as status symbols, objects of desire, as Gartner Research Vice President Monica Basso calls them, that are pushing them from the business world into the consumer world and vice versa. As the wireless industry hits its stride with connections just about everywhere, Gartner Research is showing IT leaders are less and less concerned about security each year, and consumer and business worlds are on a collision course.

Many employees enamored with their new tricked out personal phones already want them synced up with their work networks, and more will be asking for that privilege. The first reaction of course is to say, no, why compromise security and take on a series of network headaches so the hipper component of the company workforce can look cool? Gartner analyst and vice president Nick Jones believes that is a fair question. "But with well-enforced policies and employee education," Jones said, "the blurring of the work device/play device line should be encouraged by CIOs."

Research in Motion president and co-CIO Mike Lazaridis said his company, which manufactures the popular Blackberry smartphone, still sees business as the sweet spot. But Blackberry's no secret outside of work, and more and more people are buying the phones for personal use, and those mobile devices and other smartphones are starting to gain traction. "Consumers are walking into stores and literally asking for a Blackberry by name," Lazaridis said.

Recently, Research in Motion integrated social networking service Facebook, an overwhelmingly out-of-work application into its phones. Basso said employees are buying smartphones and are intent on connecting them to corporate email and corporate data. "In theory, CIO should be banning phones like iPhone," she said. "But if they do, they should expect employees to find a way around them.

Last week, Apple announced that iPhone will now sync with Microsoft Exchange, and also announced a software development kit that could make the phone more business-friendly. Jones and Basso recommend CIOs familiarize themselves with the most popular consumer products, both wireless and web-based, like Facebook and MySpace, and develop a series of policies on their use in the workplace.

"Manufacturers of consumer-come-business products are constantly pushing those towards employees," Steve VanderMolen, an IT director at Grand Rapids, Michigan-based restaurant supplier Gordon Food Service said. "Sooner or later, the smartphones and web applications end up before the IT department and have to be dealt with." VanderMolen looks at ways to embrace these employee-owned gadgets. Gordon Food Service is comfortable with employees using personal Blackberrys, provided they adhere to company use policies. "iPhones are still so new," he said, "that how compromised his brokered is yet to be seen." VanderMolen said caution and oversight is key before IT begins sanctioning user-owned smartphones and other wireless products. "A company shouldn't be allowing use if there is no real business value," he said. He warned that many consumer phone trends are just that: fads.

Jones and Basso said VanderMolen's type of open thinking isn't only a must but could also be beneficial to the business. Cash-strapped or lower-profit companies may find employees wanting to work on personal products that perform better than anything IT can supply. Business innovation, so often directed from above, might spring up in the lower ranks by employees finding easier ways to complete tasks using rapidly developing consumer products, Jones believes.

There is some evidence that says CIOs are willing to loosen the reins on employees. A late-2006 Gartner survey of 150 IT directors in Australia found that 72 percent expected personal smartphones and PDAs to be sanctioned in the workplace by 2010. And about half of 97 U.S. CIOs surveyed by Gartner late last year said they were satisfied with the ability of consumer-oriented products and applications to help work toward business success.

"Besides security, CIOs should begin developing policies for personal device use, and build and enforce a list of unauthorized devices," Basso said. Conversely, she suggested building a list of approved devices and encouraging employees to purchase those. She also said educating employees about secure use of personal wireless toys is a must.


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