Mobility

Why the gadgets your company gives you are a pain, not a perk

Steve Ranger's Notebook: It's about time the IT department stopped meddling...

Company-issue gadgets are more trouble that they're worth. It's time IT departments got out of the way and let users make their own decisions, says silicon.com editor Steve Ranger.

A friend of mine showed me his brand-new work smartphone the other day. When we'd both stopped laughing, he admitted that he wasn't even going to bother charging the ugly, antiquated brick, and would instead continue to use his own, vastly superior phone.

He's not the only person I know who keeps a company-issue mobile stuffed in a desk drawer because using it in public is too embarrassing.

As a result of the bureaucracy of IT procurement, there's a very good chance that if your company gives you a phone or a laptop - don't even try asking for a tablet - it will be out of date before it even makes it to your desk, and ill-suited to your needs.

For many workers, these office-issue gadgets aren't useful business tools, but a ball and chain that you're obliged to drag around.

Workers aren't grateful for company hardware anymore - often it's more of a pain than a perk. Hardware innovation is a consumer game now, and business devices are nearly always playing catch-up. This failing is most obvious with smartphones and tablets.

Corporate procurement, with its long lead times and emphasis on getting the best price, is always going to struggle to ensure workers have the next big thing. But equipping your best staff with the wrong tools could really hurt your business.

Should you have more say over your work phone or laptop

Should you have more say over your choice of work phone or laptop?Photo: Shutterstock

The days when managers could dangle the offer of a company laptops or phones as a reward to staff are coming to an end, and IT departments and CIOs need to recognise that.

For many workers, laptops and smartphones are no longer unaffordable luxuries, but something they will have at home, often with a higher spec that the ones signed off by the finance director. Many graduates will be astounded to find that when they turn up on their first day in the office, they have better kit than the boss.

Indeed, roles are reversed, and its bosses who are now grateful when staff bring their gadgets to work from home. One in three tablets sold is bought - with their own money - by people who want to use them at work.

Even the idea of having a work device and a home device seems ridiculously old-fashioned. No one wants to carry around lots of different phones - apart from the few who think that a Batman-style utility belt is an attractive fashion statement.

So what about the story of my friend and his new work phone? The company has wasted its money on the handset and the contract for a number that will never be used and managed to make itself look out of touch as well. Equally, my friend will have to use his own handset and pay his own bill - everyone loses out.

And yet, surveys have found that as many as two-thirds of CIOs feel that using personal devices in the workplace is too risky, and that a Canute-like 15 per cent have banned their use altogether. They should simply bow to the inevitable, set the policy but get out of the way.

Do CIOs and IT departments really want the bother of dishing out phones, laptops and soon tablets to a user base that knows at least as much about gadgets as they do? It's time to step back and hand over these decisions about what to buy - and the budget to do it - to the people who actually use the stuff.

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.

5 comments
craigweston
craigweston

They must not have hacking and viruses in the UK. I would hate to be the desk top support guy or System Admin who had to provide support for a bunch of iPads, Kindles, Nooks and various smart phones all at the same time. The equipment may not be sexy, but there's a good reason why companies and governemnt agencies issue a standard "kit". It's called security! Apple products are a notorious pain to integrate into a cooporate enviroment. Android devices are not much better. The BlackBery maybe losing consumer market share, but it's still king in the cooporate/government enviroment due to its ability to be integrated with Exchange and Active Directory.

Ray Baker
Ray Baker

At work I have an IBM NetVista PC running XP3, Office 2003 IE 8 (recent upgrade fro IE6). There are still a few machines running Win XP, Office 97, Netscape. At home a HP Pavilion i5 running Windows 7, Office 2010, IE 8. My "old" home machine is a HP dv6 running Win Vista, Offive 2007, IE8.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

They don't pay me to use my personal laptop at work. I'm not going to clutter my own computer with work-related crap, including all the little proprietary applications I'm required to use to flash and configure the equipment I support. Not even though my personal laptop has an actual serial port to connect the serial dongles for the equipment and the nutbook they gave me requires I use a USB-serial dongle to connect to the serial dongles. They don't pay me to use my personal phone for work. My immediate supervisor and two co-workers have my personal cell number, and that's only because I needed to provide a second number for emergencies. They aren't paying for the use of my phone, they don't get to clutter it up with text messages, pix messages, SMS, or any of the other comm tools they use. Plus, if the equipment they give me for work [u]doesn't[/u] work, it's their responsibility to replace it and I'm not expected to provide substitutes. If I'm providing my own laptop and phone, it's on me if one of them dies.

jonrosen
jonrosen

Is because he's allowing himself to worry overmuch about image. Given, I don't know just how 'bad' the phone he was given is... But I work for a company and got a fairly new HTC Inspire. And since VPN wasn't working from home from reason, I got my boss to allow the wi-fi hotspot tethering to be turned on for it. When I'm on-call, I take the phone with me virtually everywhere. When I'm not.. I don't. it's really that simple. Unless my work is paying my cellphone bill, I DO NOT use it for work calls. And yes, I have had jobs which did. The only real reason work devices are a 'pain' is if they is because it can tie you more tightly to your work.... IF YOU LET IT. Part of the problem with the BYOD that people seem to push for, is that it can be similar to the problems of facebook and other social idiocy. Your work files don't belong on your personal devices, and your personal info does not belong in your work's database (in effect).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Your friend made the decision to use his personal phone instead of the company-provided one based solely on the external appearance. He never started it, never tried it, and doesn't know if it would have met his needs. Footing the bill for his own phone was his choice, as was his ill-advised decision to give his personal number to co-workers. Sorry, no sympathy here.

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