Lately, there's been lots of chatter about the pluses and minuses of BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, in the workplace. Some companies are attempting to ban, limit or control BYOD, fearing for the security of corporate data. On the other extreme, one employer—a cash-strapped state agency—has even gone so far as making BYOD mandatory, without subsidies to repay employees using their own equipment and data plans.

One way or another, it seems inevitable that increasingly, employees are bringing in their own technology solutions—be it a device or a cloud service—to get their jobs done.

One Forrester analyst, David Johnson, took a look at the dynamics of BYOD and concluded that organizations only hurt themselves when they attempt to control or over-regulate the use of personal technology in the workplace. The problem, he points out, is that many workplaces are still relying on what is now antiquated technology.

For example, most offices still run on Windows XP machines—a decade-old operating system. In addition, most tools and practices currently used for endpoint management and security were developed in the early 2000s. These creaky, locked-down environments do nothing for increasing productivity, other than frustrating employees.

What Johnson recommends is taking the same attitude that many employers take toward mechanics—let them bring their own tools to work, because they know what works best. He describes the tools inventories at an aircraft maintenance facility:

“What's also fascinating to me is the differences in each mechanic's collection of tools. Some things like socket sets and hammers are the same, but there are wide differences in the more advanced tools. Some mechanics have sharp vision and observation skills, so they have advanced inspection tools, like expensive borescopes to look inside the engines for hairline cracks and early signs of mechanical failure. Others are better electronics troubleshooters, and have advanced tools for electrical tests and diagnostics. The point is, what each mechanic is good at determines both how they contribute to the success of the business, as well as the tools they spend money to buy. …there's no point in having a guy with marginal eyesight wasting time and money trying to do airframe crack inspections. Everyone on the team brings something different to the table, and it's the diversity of the team that collectively forms the shop's capabilities.”

When Johnson asked the facility manager why the company doesn't offer a common pool of standardized tools for mechanics to share, his question was laughed off. How would mechanics treat someone else's tools, versus their own?

The same principles apply to computers. Johnson says when people pay for and use their own technology, they become very focused and diligent:

1) “They will buy tools that align best with their own strengths and help them do the best work they can.”

2) “They will generally select good quality tools given the choice, because they don't have time to waste dealing with cheap ones that break.”

3) “They buy them from companies who stand behind them and will pay more to get better service. Time is money.”

Sound like some good practices for building an IT inventory.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at

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