Recently, I attended an ITIL class with several other IT professionals from varied organizations including both government and private sector. During the course, the instructor used the rise of tablet computers as an example of the rapid change that occurs in technology and its related industries. The instructor saw tablets as not only a new tool but the demise of the traditional desktop. This turned into a lively discussion.
The main focus was around the problems caused for organizations and their IT departments by change. As a technology fan, I love new gadgets, and I am always willing to try the next new thing, like when I switched to Windows 8 six months ago. However, for large organizations, especially government, change is slow and difficult. After all, many are still using IE 6. For these organizations, if adopted or allowed, tablets will require special consideration and planning.
Security came up early in the classroom chat. Tablets are extremely portable and concealable; however, in extreme security areas, they present no more physical discovery issues than laptops or standard cameras. For many in the classroom, the bigger issue is control of the device and its contents. Tablets present unique ownership issues, for both device and data. If it is a company device, how do you control how it is used? If it is an employee’s device, how do you control company data or manage device security and access to email accounts?
It has been many years since I have had a job where I did not have full privileges on my hardware, but I understand the business concerns and the hardships for IT in enforcing more restrictive policies, especially on multiple platforms and devices.
As enterprise usage expands, technology will be developed to adapt. Centralized tablet device management will eventually mirror the controls that are already in place for networks and BlackBerry phones.
ACI, recognizing the productivity and portability advantages of tablet technology, purchased iPads last year for all employees as a profit share incentive. These are employee owned devices, but they are used daily for business. As other organizations adapt to tablet technologies, they will need to plan and create policies around acquisition, ownership, and rapid changes in platforms.
For many IT companies, particularly website and application developers such as ACI, adapting to tablets goes beyond organizational security and device ownership. See my post next week on ways developers and designers need to rethink interfaces and usability for tablets.