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Encourage Responsibility, Don’t Ban iPhones

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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Instead of keeping BlackBerrys, iPhones and other personal mobile devices out of the enterprise, a new report from Forrester suggests creating a personal responsibility policy

Security concerns have long led enterprises to shun employee-owned devices, but a new report from Forrester, “Technology Populism Fuels Mobile Collaboration,” suggests that a more effective route is to acknowledge the devices and attach to them a “personal responsibility policy.”

While more than half of the 2,300-plus IT decision makers Forrester surveyed in the U.S. and Europe said they did not support any personal mobile devices, 25 percent said they provided full support to at least some personal devices, and another 21 percent said they offered at least limited support.

Forrester found that these latter two groups are essentially better harnessing their employees’ drive to more effectively solve work problems. The firm found that supporting popular personal smartphones makes sense because most employees are already using the devices at home, and because supporting employee-owned devices offers IT a way to “support workers’ mobile needs without bearing the total cost,” states the report.

Forrester found that the most commonly supported mobile application was Web-based mail, followed by access to the corporate network. Of the personal devices enterprises supported, BlackBerry smartphones comprised the majority, or 74 percent, followed by Windows Mobile devices (40 percent) and iPhones (18 percent).

Small business were particularly likely to support personal mobile devices, Forrester found, with 60 percent of them saying they supported at least some personal mobile devices. Additionally, among small businesses, iPhones made up 25 percent of the supported employee devices, versus 18 percent with large enterprises — which the analysts found noteworthy.

“When we drill into the relationship between support for mobile operating systems and support for mobile collaboration applications on personal devices, we see an interesting correlation between Apple iPhone support and mobile collaboration support,” writes Ted Schadler, the primary author of the report.

Firms that support the iPhone, Forrester found, were 60 percent more likely to support Web-based email, twice as likely to allow access to the corporate network and twice as likely to support access to team sites.

Schadler writes that in discussions with global companies, he continually found them struggling with wanting to empower their workforces with productivity-enhancing technology though mitigate legal risk. Locking down information, however, Schadler compares to “plugging a leak with your thumb.”

Instead of locking down devices, he proposes creating a comprehensive personal responsibility policy.

“It’s time to pull the legal, HR, and IT policy teams together to create a new appropriate-use policy,” Schadler writes. “Instead of creating a different use policy for mobility, instant messaging, Web conferencing, blogs, wikis, Twitter, email and telephone, create a single context-specific policy that focuses on the responsibilities of each individual.”

Such a policy, he explains, includes regularly reminding employees of the policy, applying appropriate retention policies and building business support for policy enforcement. Schadler describes the policy as not only easy to scale across an organization, but flexible enough to adjust to “changing workforce demands for technology.”

The report is a part of Forrester’s suite of Business Data Services studies.