The Device Liability Circus

By  Martha Walz — May 05, 2011

The consumerization of IT continues to rise in the enterprise with the increased proliferation of consumer smartphones in the workplace. Since the introduction of the iPad last year, consumer tablets, too, have invaded the enterprise, with no end in sight. But with this increased consumerization, have companies changed their device liability strategies to enable their employees to pick and choose which devices they want to connect to the enterprise network and use for business purposes?

To answer this question, we conducted an online survey of Mobile Enterprise readers regarding the device purchase and payment strategies used in their companies. In comparing these results to a similar survey performed last year, we can see that consumerization has forced some businesses to accommodate their employees’ desires to connect their personal devices to the enterprise network. However, some companies have stuck to strict corporate-owned devices for their workforces, as that strategy gives companies more control over device deployment, security, and cost.

There are, however, many more considerations involved than simply who pays for the mobile devices. Legal liability is one issue that arises. For example, in an individual-liable payment model (employee purchases phone and may or may not be reimbursed for the monthly bill), if an employee loses his/her mobile device containing sensitive business information, who is legally liable? Or in a corporate-liable model, if an employee is texting while driving and causes an accident, can the company be held responsible? It’s a murky area with more questions than answers.

Managing the myriad device types and OSes—even different versions of each OS—can turn into a circus. How do you deliver the same user experience and manage devices across all platforms? How do you ensure the security of the data on each device as well as the devices themselves? These are some of the top issues on the minds of IT managers today, and with the number of new devices coming out each month, they look to be top-of-mind for some time to come.

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