14 June, 2011

Simplify your business: Pay your staff to provide their own technology

Remember when providing company cars was a big part of staff remuneration? Many firms have stopped doing that, and simply pay staff more, with (subject to the whims of the taxman) generous mileage allowances. Why? Basically simplicity and flexibility. The company car costs far more to provide and administer than the expense claim method; and the internal angst and envy that goes with company cars isn't not worth the hassle. Give them the cash and get rid of the problems.

There's  a growing school of thought that suggests you should take the same approach to people’s business technology, ie. their mobile phones and laptops. These are increasingly subject to personal preferences and, like cars, companies face specification creep as everyone aspires to the latest status symbol. Not only that, if you look around many businesses (especially in IT), you’ll see people who’ve brought their own computer and phone to work, because they prefer them to the standard issue platforms that the company makes available.

If you could negotiate bulk buying deals, set some standards, and put all your sensitive and shared applications and information behind appropriate safeguards, what’s not to like? The phone idea can fly - many companies already expect their staff to have their own mobile phones, and the network operators are coming up with group plans to cut down call charges and paperwork. If you’ve a tech-savvy workforce, then maybe the personal laptop idea will fly too. But I suspect it will be some time before the general workplace user will be ready for such a move. And many companies would resist it, for sound reasons.

But I still expect to see this trend grow. Companies will impose standards and security through their web-based resources and applications, not through the desktop hardware. As the desktop reduces to a big touch screen with a fast comms link, and the phone effectively becomes the mobile personal computing and ID device which connects to that desktop at work and at home, why bother to replicate the technology?

First posted September 11th, 2008

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