Enterprise communication: Flexibility trumps security

Before wireless email became commonplace, executive management would often forward their most important email messages from their corporate account to their free, consumer email account (e.g.

Before wireless email became commonplace, executive management would often forward their most important email messages from their corporate account to their free, consumer email account (e.g., hotmail) -- so that they could access them at a public kiosk while traveling.

Consumer instant messaging (IM), and the plethora of free "2.0" e-communication systems, are today's traffickers of business information. No longer the primary domain of executive management, everyone can participate in the risk of exposing private information on public networks. Tools that are free, easy and fun, while serving some business purpose, will be used by the average knowledge worker. Witness consumer instant messaging. 

As the knowledge worker decides how best to communicate, flexibility trumps security.

  • Let me (the knowledge worker) choose the method by which I communicate, and I'll be more productive. 
  • Business units and IT, sanction my choice of e-communication tools and the organization will be flatter and more productive.

The need for flexibility drove the executive to forward business messages to her consumer email account. However, today the traveling executive normally accesses her business messages through a secured Web or mobile session to the corporate email server. As consumer IM became a near staple of enterprise communications, enterprise-level, third-party "connectors" arrived to secure those IM sessions.

With the current explosion of new consumer e-communication media, an unending parade of enterprise-level (i.e., secure) unified communication suites are surfacing -- with the supply-side vendors are one-upping each other, near daily. View Microsoft's announcement of the Microsoft-Nortel alliance, followed by Marguerite Reardon's (CNET News.com) report.

[Cisco] has been pursuing several new markets, such as telephony and video, over the past few years to find new growth markets. So far, Unified Communications is proving to be a winner. During the company's second-quarter earnings call in February, executives said that sales of its Unified Communications products had increased 38 percent compared with a year ago. ... Even though sales seem to be strong for this product line, Cisco will likely continue to compete against some tough competitors, including Microsoft, which is working with voice veteran Nortel Networks.

Freedom of choice and data security need not be mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, the average Enterprise is wary to spend money on emerging e-communication technologies, or securing those already on-site -- even as the average Enterprise User downloads any tool that provides him with the greatest communicative flexibility. 

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