Bring your own hardware

I was at a recent meeting with a high-ranking Microsoft employee. This particular employee had the obligatory smartphone on the desk and, no surprises here; it was running Windows Phone 7 as the OS. While this didn’t seem like an issue, it was quite fascinating to hear about the problems this created within Microsoft in relation to new employees.

We all know that Gen Y employees are different (for the sake of this article I will define Gen Y as born from 1982-2000). Surveys show some amazing stats about Gen Y. An acceptable wait time for IT support for 59 percent of Gen Y is 10 minutes. That isn’t so bad though as 61 percent of Gen Y individuals use resources other than company support for dealing with technology problems – possibly because 10 minutes is an unrealistic wait time so they try and solve problems for themselves.

Gen Y love their mobility – if you ask Generation Y what productivity tool they could never do without, the answer you will receive is their smartphone and 52 percent of Gen Y owns a smartphone compared to 35 percent of all adults. In fact, 83 percent said they sleep with their phone on or next to their bed.

The latest stats have the iPhone at approximately 40 percent market share with Windows Phone 7 at around 8 percent.

Which brings me back to my original point. Microsoft still attract the best and the brightest. Talented Gen Y graduates want to work for Microsoft just as much as previous generations. The problem is that most of these potential employees own an iPhone and it is near and dear to their heart. When they are told by Microsoft that they will be issued with a smartphone running Windows Phone 7 as part of their employment package, it is enough to scare away some of these employees. People from my generation still think a company provided mobile phone – of whatever flavour – is absolutely fine. Gen Y think differently. Not only do they expect a mobile, they expect to be able to use whatever type of smartphone they want. Most would rather pay for their own device so they can make their own selection rather than live with the company issued device. A phone is now as much a statement about the person as it is a useful device.

All this has major ramifications for Managed Services Providers. There is no doubt it is easier to manage a network where the company provides all the hardware and it conforms to the standards set for a particular organisation. With HAL compatible hardware, an SOE can be created and the parameters are all known. In a modern competitive employment world though, an MSP needs to provide not only thought leadership but flexibility. An MSP should become much more than just a provider of computer hardware and services. My article last week focussed on the concept of thought leadership for MSPs and this is a perfect example where you can show your leadership to your clients.

Knowledge is power. Explain the implications to clients of allowing them to connect their own notebooks and smartphones to the network. Accept the fact that a modern employer will allow this to happen and put processes and policies in place to accommodate this behaviour. For example, you might insist that the corporate anti-virus package be installed on hardware that is owned by the employees. Notebooks might have a snapshot taken of them on a semi-regular basis to ensure corporate information is not leaving the premises on a notebook. Smartphones may have monitoring software installed to allow complete tracking of SMS, e-mail and browsing history.

In short, I don’t believe the answer to ‘bring your own hardware’ is no. That may make your job easier but your clients need to be the employers of choice. The correct answer is specific to each organisation and the creation of policies and procedures suited to each individual client shows that, once again, your powers as an advanced MSP go way beyond the IT skillset.

Tell me what your favourite Gen Y attribute is at [email protected].

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