Work Life

Is Your Company Becoming a Digital Device Dinosaur?

Photo of Holger Reisinger
September 16, 2014
Reading time
4 minutes
All over the world companies prevent their employees from bringing their own digital devices. But with more new wearable devices being launched and future – digitally native – generations taking over the labor market, these types of policies will drive your company to extinction.

Just the other day an old friend of mine called me asking an ‘existential’ question. She has just changed jobs and wanted to bring her beloved MacBook to her new workplace. However, it turned out she couldn’t. Company procedures only allowed PCs. No problem, she thought. I can manage and learn the ways of Bill Gates. And then the hammer hit: she couldn’t bring her iPhone either.  The company only allowed Android-based phones – at least if she wanted access to the company’s online resources and web mail.

A few days later she told me that she had decided to continue with her own phone. She had to keep another phone in her purse though, just in case she wanted to read emails from work after work hours. However, she also admitted that she wasn’t checking them as often as she did in her old job. Given her reaction, I couldn’t help but think how a ban on bringing your own devices seems so old fashioned that one could only worry for the future of the entire company if its other business practices equaled that of its IT policies. However, after looking up the stats I was in for an even bigger surprise. According to a 2013 TechRepublic and ZDNet member survey, only 44 percent of all companies allow employees to bring their own devices, although another 18 percent expected to lift the ban before the end of 2013. Hence, in 2014 roughly a third of all companies – including some of the most iconic worldwide brands today – have not yet embraced the diversity of techie stuff out there.

The Next Generations Don’t Give a Damn About Company Policies

That’s not good news if you plan to hire the top employees of the next, so-called millennial generation. According to a survey by Fortinet, slightly more than half of the digitally savvy young talents in their 20’s see it as their ‘right’ to use their own devices at work and not a ‘privilege.’ Perhaps even scarier for old-school companies, one out of three announced that they would gladly break any anti-“bring-your-own-device” rules and “contravene a company’s security policy that forbids them to use their personal devices at work or for work purposes.” About a third would also be willing to use “non-approved applications” at work and two-thirds of those surveyed believe they, not the company, should be responsible for the security of devices used for work purposes.

The enormous investments and security risks associated with this attitude make me fear the worst. Not for the future of IT security but for the future of the most conservative companies around the world. If one third of companies have banned “bring-your-own-device” today, the attitude of future generations combined with the tremendous number of new types of devices about to be launched in the coming years will most certainly make more companies follow the path of probation. And I foresee it may very well kill off some of the giants dominating our daily lives today.
The prohibitionists overlook a very important fact in their analysis of future IT.  Young people do not think of their technology gear as IT equipment. They see it as an extension of their personality. They have carefully chosen, fitted and adapted their personal technology suite according to their personality, needs and self-image. Stripping them of their gear is roughly the same as stripping them of their clothes, family or nationality. You just don’t go there.

Stop Giving Employees Any Devices at All

Hence, this fight is obviously one you can’t win. And analytics companies like the Gartner Group agree with me. As a matter of fact, the Gartner Group has already predicted that by 2017, half of all employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes. They will not even make any device available: it’s simply not worth the time, effort or money.

So the era of ‘one size fits all’ is over in IT. And it’s probably also over in most other important areas associated with traditional work life. In the future we all expect special treatment, and our employers are doomed if they do not acknowledge each person’s unique qualities and needs. While the entrance of smartphones may have seemed like a revolution, it’s nothing compared to what is to come.  The future belongs to wearable devices, with Google watches and Samsung’s health bracelets as the frontrunners. Some 50 million wearable units are expected to be sold this year alone, according to IHS. That number is projected to balloon to 180 million by 2018. And most importantly: the wearable market is already growing at a rate five-times faster than the smartphone revolution that changed companies forever.

So here’s the short version of my recent experience. My friend didn’t just lose access to her iPhone. She took a hit to her identity. Companies who force people to change their lives so profoundly will cease to exist in the future, just like the dinosaurs were outmaneuvered by smarter, cold-resistant mammals. Make sure you evolve and adapt in time….
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