When your workforce is all over the place, you need a VPN

In the information war, the general public has got the taste for conflict and they’ve tooled themselves up with tablets, smart phones and all kinds of gadgets.

While they are feeling brave it is the CIO that has to lead the front and who will carry the can when the inevitable casualties happen.

Consumerisation is being hailed a user’s revolt. However, CIOs should bear in mind that few revolutions are bloodless and it’s only a matter of time before we see some casualties.

Soon people may start to feel nostalgic about the old order and want the authority of the CIO to return.

“Yes, the users have risen,” says Nader Henein, security adviser with RIM, “it’s like the Arab Spring. The old days when IT had a plan, selected the hardware and worked out their strategy for security have gone. Now you have to be an enabler and can’t be seen to be getting in the way.”

It’s not time to abandon hope yet though, he says, because this is all part of the constant push and pull between end users and the IT department as they battle for control over the means of production.

The battle could soon swing back in the IT department’s favour soon. A good high profile security scandal should do the job.

“One of the problems is that there haven’t been enough high profile incidents involving iPads,” says Gartner analyst Leif-Olof Wallin, “so nobody believes that there is a massive security exposure. Malware attacks haven’t been bad enough yet so few CIOs are able to say no to the users.”

Lars Kamp, Accenture’s mobility services strategist, says the users don’t seem to have any historical perspective.

“It’s the 1990s Internet mania repeating itself,” says Kamp.

“Suddenly a new technology swept in, threatening and promising to change the way people worked and lived. It became an instant priority for IT, but its multiple facets weren’t so easily nor quickly mastered.”

Lessons learned
If CIOs can apply any of the lessons from the 90s to the current mobile mania, it is that companies that got caught out then were spending money on brochureware, while savvier companies realized that only careful back-end investment would save them from disaster.

By ditching the carefully laid out security plans created by Blackberry, with its secure servers and mobile VPNs, the new tablet users are putting the enterprise at risk.

The first priority should be to re-establish VPNs. But won’t that get in the way of users? Having secured the company first, they could move on to offer the benefits: data access to employees, partners and suppliers.

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If all goes to plan that will lead to unprecedented transactional opportunity via e-commerce and other channels.

Accenture Research, backs up his theory and two separate studies suggest that history is repeating itself.

“Confusion still reigns over how to accommodate divergent employee and customer needs, especially with the fragmentation of the mobile device market and widespread concerns about security, costs, and connectivity,” concludes The Accenture CIO Mobility Survey 2012.

“The biggest concern is not malware, but consumer apps running on enterprise devices,” says RIM’s Henein.

One of the prices that CIOs are paying, as they surrender control over the IT infrastructure, is that all kinds of cloud services are being granted access to sensitive corporate data, as users sign up for consumer apps.

It’s only going to get worse. A Check Point study of mobile device usage in January 2012 indicated that 78 per cent of enterprises had seen the number of mobile device connections double on their networks since 2010.

“People want access to the network and resources, and they want it on the device they carry with them,” says Terry Greer-King, UK MD for Check Point. “The CIOs get the headache of securing those devices.”

CIO Event:

The CIO Big Conversation
Consumerisation: How to manage the new era of mobility

Date: Thursday 25th October 2012
Time: 6:30pm
Location: The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London

To register for your place, email amie_lane@idg.co.uk

Event Overview:

The Big Conversation is a business technology leadership forum that brings IT leaders together to listen, share & shape opinions on the key issues the CIO community faces. The evening will include a keynote from a top CIO 100 speaker sharing his experiences on this topic, as well as the opportunity to share your views with fellow CIOs over networking drinks and canapés.