Leader: Mobile rollouts - let the people choose

Sometimes the internal customer is right too...

Sometimes the internal customer is right too...

Today we heard that British Airways has taken a big step in how it handles the PDAs and smart phones used by certain staff.

Traditionally, there are two approaches to a problem that affects most organisations now. At one extreme there is a lock-down, with mandates that only a certain device or devices based on a certain operating system be used. The BBC went through these growing pains some years ago, as revealed by silicon.com.

At the other end of the spectrum are organisations that bury their heads in the sand. We see this all too often, where otherwise well-run networks get all sorts of devices connecting to them unchecked. (And in case you ask, yes, iPods can be a danger here too – one of the reasons we follow that market.)

But BA is thinking differently. With the help of one main partner, a mobile middleware provider, it has told some 500 or so executives that, within reason, they can use devices of their choice.

Sure, there are management issues, but as one analyst in this space pointed out, this is far better than letting all sorts of problems come in under the radar screen.

In a similar way, we are increasingly seeing all sorts of organisations realise that far from trying to dictate which wireless networks their staff use, they should try to remain open-minded.

At this week's WLAN Event show in London, that has been a theme. Much like the days of PDAs surreptitiously being synced beside work PCs, we all know the stories about wireless LAN access points being connected to networks on individuals' desks. (Actually more likely underneath them, out of site, but that's a minor detail.) The idea was that if employers weren't going to set up flexible working in an office, hey, an IT literate staffer would.

Spot the trends here? In this age of options when it comes to technology, it is hard if not impossible to ignore the ways that staff want to work. Trying to control behaviour – whether that be a device that is used or a bearer technology – rather than simplifying matters often leads to bigger problems.

That's why we back choice in the way we work, wherever possible – and, indeed, wherever economical.

But there is another good reason to ride this particular train. If a member of staff is choosing a Bluetooth connection one minute, Wi-Fi the next, then maybe 3G at another point in time, or if they are married to a particular smart phone, maybe, just maybe, there's a good reason for that.