Christmas stockings give IT managers a headache

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47% of IT Managers expect a surge in new mobile handheld devices in the workplace in January, says research

According to new research commissioned by O2, UK IT Manager's will face a drawn out hangover on January 4 2005, with 47% of IT managers anticipating a surge in new personal mobile devices either received as Christmas gifts or purchased in the sales infiltrating into the workplace. However, just 24% of businesses have formal policies in place to govern the use of personal mobile devices. For the rest, the influx of mobile Christmas gifts will place additional set up resource requirements upon the IT department or, go undetected into the business with potential long term security and governance ramifications.

The findings are part of a survey of 250 UK IT Managers, exploring the impact of personal mobile ownership on the IT department. Prior to Christmas 2004, the survey highlights that personal mobile device ownership in the workplace was already widespread with personal iPODS actively used in 29% of organisations, personal smart phones in 35%, personal BlackBerrys in 8% and handheld PCs in over 70% of businesses.

Despite the fact that personal ownership is increasingly widespread, businesses are still failing to equip themselves to manage personal mobility with a formal policy. Of those 76% businesses without a formal policy in place, only 12% are looking to introduce clear guidelines in 2005. Of equal concern, those with a policy tend to focus on controlling acquisition and approval of mobile devices rather than the level of actual usage. For example, only 25% of policies stipulated that users were not allowed to carry sensitive data on their mobile, whilst just 22% recommended that mobile devices were regularly backed up.

Whilst businesses continue to ignore the need for a mobile policy, the survey reveals that on average, IT managers are spending the equivalent of one working week of their time per year providing informal support for mobile devices. 53% of IT managers admitted that increasing pressure to informally support different types of handheld mobile devices is a significant concern, whilst in total 79% believed it provided a level of disruption to regular helpdesk support they are expected to provide.

Commenting on the research, Hugh Griffiths, head of data products and services, O2 UK says: “Ultimately, mobility brings a raft of benefits to the corporate workplace including better customer contact, lower office overheads and time efficiencies. However, IT Managers are clearly concerned that sooner or later connecting up the contents of the Christmas stocking is going to be their problem.  Even if people aren’t directly asking for connection support in January, sooner or later IT is going to be bought in to deal with back up problems, loss of data or security issues.”

Griffiths concludes: “As mobile continues to converge across the personal office space, businesses need to recognise that personal mobility is here to stay and needs to be accommodated - either through clear guidelines around what is allowed, or ensuring that time is written into the IT manager’s role to support employees.  Whether employees are using personal devices to download music or access email, this is all about the entry and exit of data into the business and IT departments should take the lead role.”