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The iPhone has arrived and your coworkers are buying them. Soon they will be asking for connectivity to the corporate network and integration with corporate email systems. How should your company respond?

It's not just the iPhone. There is a growing proliferation of personal technology. It includes smartphones, MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS navigators, and ultra-mobile PCs. Don't forget about instant messaging software, social networking websites, and blogs as vehicles of personal communication. How can any company control such a wide variety of technologies?

Some try banning all such devices, websites and activities from corporate facilities using guards, metal detectors and electronic snooping equipment. While this is necessary in highly-secure environments, in the typical corporate office it would be viewed as unfair and intrusive. It may be better to develop a coexistence strategy.

IT departments work hard to ensure that corporate networks are secure, regulatory compliant, and reliable. New hardware or software being considered for widespread deployment is always evaluated on an isolated network segment to ensure it meets appropriate criteria. Once it passes and required upgrades to IT infrastructure are made, deployment proceeds.

Of course, the user community doesn't know anything about all this testing and upgrading. They just want to use their favorite toys while at work. It's time to acknowledge that the role of IT is changing from providing technology to facilitating its adoption.

Most people use personal technology to make their work easier, make it more enjoyable or stay in touch with friends and family. For example, smartphones help workers collaborate. Text messaging and instant messaging help families stay in touch more efficiently.

As the line between work life and personal life continues to blur, people are being forced to mix professional and personal obligations. Attempts at separating work time and personal time are becoming increasingly futile.

Highly sought after devices like the iPhone present special challenges. If you've seen the iPhone commercials, you know that this is not just another smartphone. Banning them is ineffective. Embracing them is complex. There will have to be some give and take on both sides.

Let's discuss some guidelines to help IT managers and end users deal with the influx of new hardware, software and services. By understanding each other's needs and the constraints each faces, everyone benefits. We'll begin with some suggestions for IT managers.

Speak with your user communities. Find out what personal technologies they are using and why. Use this as an opportunity to explain why some personal technologies cause problems and how they can be avoided. Be prepared to offer alternatives or do some research to help people make good choices.

Facilitate, don't obstruct. Create clear, written policies that guide employees toward smart choices. Avoid banning a technology entirely unless required for job safety. If something must be banned, explain the rationale and offer alternatives.

Standardize where possible. If numerous employees are using a technology, consider adopting it as a corporate standard. For example, if your company is involved in real estate or automobile sales, your staff may be using digital cameras. If you don't provide any policies, you'll find a wide variety of devices and associated image management software. It may be better to offer a corporate solution.

Offer compliance incentives. Consider supplying productivity tools such as instant messaging or smartphones to all employees who have a legitimate need. You can also offer discounts on preferred products. At least, offer assistance for installation and troubleshooting of approved products.

Turning our attention to the user community, they also bear significant responsibility for safeguarding corporate systems and data. A few thoughtful suggestions can make everyone's life easier.

Ask, don't assume. If you want to install unapproved software on your company computer or attach a personal device to it, check your company policies first. If what you want to do is prohibited, think twice. If you're unsure, ask and be ready to explain what you want to do and why. It is best to take these steps before making a purchase decision.

Make smart choices. Select products that are widely used and from well-known companies. Ask friends and colleagues what products they use and how they like them. Know what hardware and software you have at the office and what connectivity options are available to you before committing to a purchase or download.

Be patient. Few companies run out and buy the latest and greatest technology. They wait for products to demonstrate stability and reliability. This can easily take 6 to 12 months or longer. It's usually best not to be an early adopter as you'll only be helping the supplier to field test the product.

As for that iPhone that you simply must have, using it as a mobile phone won't present any problems. Using it to send and receive corporate email or connecting to your corporate network using the built-in WiFi adapter will encounter obstacles.

Security concerns will be raised. There will also be issues around interoperability with existing systems and the potential for interference with other devices. These problems are not trivial but can be managed if both sides work cooperatively.

Personal technology will continue to grow in importance. Devices will get smaller, faster and cheaper. We've been through transitions from mainframes to minicomputers to personal computers.

Each time, IT has expressed concern about managing the new technologies but found a way to do it. Smart devices are just another transition.

Vin D'Amico is Founder and President of DAMICON, your ADJUNCT CIO™. He helps companies avoid the subtle mistakes that cause missed deadlines, lost opportunities and fragile results. He shows them agile approaches that slash risk and cut development time so they get to market 25-50% faster. He helps them carry that momentum into the sales cycle using white papers and case studies that accelerate the selling process.

This article appeared in Vin's monthly Virtual Business column for the IndUS Business Journal in July 2007.

To learn more about how DAMICON can help your business, please take a look at our service programs.

Virtual Business

Virtual Business

This column appears monthly in the IndUS Business Journal.