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Consumer devices still cause IT chaos -- five years after first iPhone

IT execs offer advice on tough task of embracing consumer devices, and how they can be used to innovate

March 13, 2012 06:05 AM ET

Computerworld - PHOENIX -- The consumerization of IT trend is causing chaos and confusion in IT operations grappling with the demand that they support the latest iPad, iPhone or Android device.

That's the opinion of many CIO's and IT managers attending Computerworld's Premier 100 conference here this week.

Two years after the unveiling of the iPad and about five years after the first iPhone, several IT managers said they are taking steps to allow workers to use Apple iOS- and Android-based devices at work.

Despite such steps, the pressure to support such devices continues to leave IT managers feeling threatened and off-balance, several said in interviews.

"After all this time, I'm still in crisis mode with Bring Your Own Device," said Alex Yohn, assistant director of the office of technology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va.

Yohn and about 30 IT managers in one session overwhelmingly agreed that adapting their organizations to support consumer mobile devices has been a complex and painful process, easily as complicated as adapting to laptops in their early days.

Most in the session rated the level of pain of preparing to support mobile devices at an eight on a scale of one to 10.

Yohn was one of the few who spoke publicly about his operation's efforts, and seems to have come up some of the best approaches.

West Virginia University was forced to adapt, partly because students began arriving with iOS, Android and other Linux-based devices and demanded that they be able to access university networks and applications, he said.

The university has adapted by, among other things, putting many university apps on the Web, Yohn said. University developers used HTLM 5 and other tools to ensure apps supported a variety of mobile devices running different operating systems, he added.

Other IT managers at the Premier 100 conference said dissatisfaction with Research in Motion's BlackBerry devices they relied on for years has the potential to cause a crisis in an organization.

The latest four-day RIM outage in October put several IT managers on a mission to find alternatives, including allowing workers to use their personal devices for job tasks, they said.

An IT manager at a company with 70,000 employees, which he asked not be identified, said mostly iOS-based devices have spread to nearly 10% of the workforce over past three years. His IT group has in turn tried to optimize company applications for iOS.

Focusing on adapting apps to work with iOS has caused some users of Android machines to complain when things don't work. But the IT manager said, "We tell them if it doesn't work, it's your own fault."

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