The consumerisation of technology in the workplace, whereby users bring in their own devices and even sign up to their own choice of cloud systems, is drastically changing the role of the IT department.
That is according to analyst house IDC, which warned IT managers to be ahead of the change.
Nick McQuire, research director at IDC, told delegates at the company's first 'Consumerisation of IT' conference in London: "The new world of mobility changes the IT philosophy. It's no longer highly controlled."
Many businesses were striving to allow in some devices and self-provisioned systems, but while retaining central control, he said. "It's a balancing act. You don't want to completely lock down your systems, but you do need security and the right policies."
McQuire said there was an increasingly apparent "shadow IT" in businesses, whereby people choose and commission their own systems, often through the cloud. "It definitely drives up security and data risks," he said.
"Sometimes people do it because IT has been too slow to act," he said. "But whatever the reason, it's much better to educate them on what works and to enable their choices, and be ahead of the game."
Consumerisation, McQuire said, "presents a massive opportunity" to reduce upfront device costs, aid innovation and increase productivity.
But he warned that the "significant risks and challenges" include setting who is responsible for systems and data, as well as the costs and difficulties associated with managing an array of technology.
Less than a fifth of businesses are estimated to have the software and skills in place to manage personal devices. And 41 percent were worried about cost, according to an IDC survey, while 37 percent worried about management.
IDC predicts that 1.3 million apps will be downloaded to smartphones and tablets this year, compared to 75,000 on PCs. Additionally, it said, 120 million more smartphones and tablets will be sold than PCs.
"The centre of gravity is shifting from the traditional Wintel leadership, and consumer mobile devices are a big factor," he said. "Tablets are moving from being executive jewellery into the line of business. There's a willingness to experiment with iPads in particular - even the House of Commons allows iPads in."
McQuire said the consumerisation of IT was "essentially a force for good". But he added that "it has to be proactively managed".
Businesses needed to prepare for a six to 12 month turnover on applications, he said, "much faster than a typical three to five year IT planning cycle".
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