Home PCs arrive at work

29 Nov 2007 View Comments
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BP's Digital Allowance scheme gives staff money to buy their own computers

As the lines blur between the technology used at work and at home, each business sector faces its own challenges, according to speakers at a Unisys conference last week.

The ever-increasing consumerisation of IT has significant implications for the way companies design and manage their desktop estate, because employees can be given the option of using their own computing equipment at work.

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The trend is growing. Last year 42 per cent of medium-sized businesses in Europe were allowing staff to connect their hardware to the corporate network, this year the figure has risen to 48 per cent, according to Gartner.

An early advocate is BP. The company’s Digital Allowance scheme allocates staff members a personal budget for their IT costs and allows them to buy and use their own equipment. Helpdesk facilities are also accessed externally, rather than through BP’s in-house department.

The programme is only a pilot, but the firm is in the process of establishing how to roll it out to the wider organisation.

Firms can save significant sums on hardware and maintenance budgets, according to BP infrastructure and operations manager Ian Julien.

“Consumerisation is an unstoppable force so you might as well get with the game,” he said.

“One of our consultants estimated that the Digital Allowance programme could save us $200m (£97m) a year.”

But the motivation is not just financial. One of the main impulses behind the scheme was the desire of staff at all levels to be able to use their own equipment.

On the downside, such schemes can present security risks. The speed at which companies accept consumer technology on their network will depend on how secure the business must be, according to Janet Day, IT director at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.

“When you are in a non-lockdown home environment and you have company data on your PC, you could be putting yourself in breach of the Data Protection Act,” she said.

Like BP, Lloyds TSB has come under pressure from staff. But it has stringent security controls because of the nature of the industry, said head of IT innovation and research James Gardiner.

“We are aware of the move towards consumerisation and are very concerned about managing the risks,” he said.

“As a bank we cannot afford to take big steps because we are so highly regulated.”

But employers need to be realistic about staff working habits. And there are measures that can be taken to address the security implications of staff using their own technology.

“We have mandated that all USB sticks be replaced with encrypted versions because we know people will use them,” said Gardiner.

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