Enterprise Software

Cisco survey asks: Is the office really necessary?

According to a recent survey, end-users are demanding a more distributed workforce. Is your IT department, like half of the respondents, unprepared to support this?

In a survey of 2,600 workers and IT professionals in 13 countries (United States, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia, India, China, Japan, and Australia), Cisco has gathered data indicating that employees prefer flexibility in their jobs, many times even more than a higher salary.

That flexibility refers not only to working outside the office, but being allowed to use personal computing devices or connecting to non-work websites in the office. This sounds like security nightmare for IT folks who have been known to pump workstation USB ports full of epoxy. However, this is a tide that IT may not be able to stem. Consider the findings:

  • 3 out of 5 respondents felt it was unnecessary to be in a physical office to be productive (this sentiment was more prevalent in China, India, and Brazil).
  • 2 out of 3 employees surveyed (66 percent) expect IT to allow them to use any device - personal or company-issued - to access corporate networks, applications, and information anywhere at any time, and they expect the types of devices to continue diversifying.

If you've attempted to take the who-cares-what-end-users-want stance, be prepared to also push up against management. This need-driven movement by end-users directly affects morale, which directly affects turnover, which directly affects the bottom line. If flexibility, and not high salaries, is the foremost desire on the part of employees, which side do you think corporate will come down on?

The desire for a distributed workforce is a bit of a Catch-22: Many of the IT respondents felt security, budget, and staff expertise were the biggest barriers to enabling a more distributed workforce; employees, on the other hand, often felt IT and corporate policies were the obstacles.

If you're not prepared to support a more borderless, mobile workforce, you're not alone. Almost half of the IT respondents said they are not prepared policy- and technology-wise to support a borderless, mobile workforce. Security is, of course, the main concern.

In fact, here are some security findings from the survey:

  • About 1 in 5 (19 percent) employees globally said they have noticed strangers looking at their computer screens in public, while an additional 19 percent admitted that they never think to check their surroundings.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) employees admitted leaving devices unattended in public.
  • Almost 3 of every 4 employees globally (58 percent) admitted that they have allowed non-employees to use their corporate devices unsupervised.
  • One of 4 IT respondents (26 percent) said one-fourth of the devices issued to employees in the past 12 months had already been lost or stolen.

So is this a chicken/egg issue? Clearly, this need for a distributed workforce will be driven by end-users. But who has to take the next step? Corporate has to sign off on this, but is there any guarantee that they will understand the full nature of issues that this switch entails, in regard specifically to budget and security? Will IT be caught in the middle once again?


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.


On the whole, I agree that the trend will continue, and that IT should be very careful managing what Lee Iacocca called the "lead, follow, or get out of the way" syndrome. But IT doesn't have to be the only black hat in putting a drag on rapidly moving towards the new work mode. IT should partner with the company's auditors/compliance managers to set policy, and when communicated to the organization, make it clear that those policies are coming from senior management, not IT. When I read this: "2 out of 3 employees surveyed... expect IT to allow them to use any device - personal or company-issued - to access corporate networks, applications, and information anywhere at any time..." I thought, why should IT take heat for not meeting that expectation? If the survey read "2 out of 3 employees expect to be able to write checks directly to their suppliers", would senior management be miffed if the auditors said "aaah, no."?


Cisco is all about enterprise infrastructure. If the employees of tomorrow are doing their job with their tablet PC whilst sitting at the coffee shop, then you don't need an enterprise-class switch, a wiring closet crammed with ethernet ports, a shiny-new Cisco phone system, or a $50K Cisco router. And Cisco does not make mobile devices, tablet PCs, or products like the middleware that integrate these devices into corporate IT systems. The beneficiaries of this vision are the wireless carriers, the mobile device makers, and perhaps cloud-computing providers like google. What are they thinking? It's like an automaker predicting a future without automobiles....


that is the sales pitch that IT manufacturers use to sell their devices. Since corporate/business tends to only buy new devices every 3 to 5 years or so, the IT manufacturers began to target consumers. It's a bigger market, and consumers are more apt to buy the latest and greatest, without thought to the overall price of buying the latest and greatest every years or even every 6 months. But and that's the big billion dollar question, devices like smart phones have to be useful. To that end, it's the consumers who are driving corporate IT to allow them to use their $200 smart phone for work. They paid $200.00 for it, so the consumer has to have value for it. If the smart phone doesn't do much for them in the work world, why buy it. The problem for companies is their data and keeping it safe and secure. Should companies allow employees to use their personal devices, to access company owned data? If the personal device is lost, with the company data on it, who's liable for the loss and potential impact on the business? for non proprietary information or for data that isn't business critical, I'd say sure, let them buy their own devices, don't care what data they have because it's not business critical data, nor is the locations they access via the device, access to areas that contain business critical data. but for business critical data or access to sensitive network area, nope. To risky for theft and loss of business sensitive or critical data or even a breach in security of the corporate network that can cost the business millions of dollars in theft of money, bank accounts, customer data, etc. While a connected world is great for the IT industry, it's not so great for the private businesses because the world is full of people who will steal money and interconnected world simply makes it easier for them to steal it, often from the other side of the world.


The line between work and home are getting more and more blurred. My boss expects me to be available whenever. The company doesn't provide cell phone allowances so I don't have text messaging because I refuse to pay for it. I tell them to send me an e-mail. I will point out that if I can use my personal equipment for business use then it's only fair that I can use the company's equipment for personal use.


All IT departments better be ready to support this kind of thing or be outsourced if they can't/won't. Gone are the days when people only worked at their desk on their company-provided computer.

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