July 15 2012 12:00 AM

Do you believe the whole "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) phenomenon is just a bunch of hooey that is being hyped by deep-pocketed smartphone and tablet makers? Do you wish that they would simply go mind their own business so you can go about minding yours?

As a consultant and instructor in the information management space, I have to tell you that folks who have this sort of attitude may soon find it coming back to bite them—"maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life." (Line from the movie Casablanca, a central plot point of which would have to be rewritten if exit visas were available electronically.)

Consider the following scenarios, all of which played out before me in just the past few weeks: An eight-year-old student uses smart devices as easily as a knife and fork, and eager to show his parents how he has mastered the "home" position on the keyboard, he asks to do more on the PC than simple point-and-click games.

A 17-year-old boy in the back yard with his girlfriend and father casually observes that each is using a different one of the three leading smart mobile platforms (Android, iOS and Windows) and starts a discussion of how far the apps for each have come in just a few years.

A 28-year-old sales executive wrecks his car twice while texting, emailing and driving, finally acknowledging, "I guess I'm just trying to do too much just because I can."

A 50-something primary school educator says keyboarding is too difficult for third graders to master and resists the use of typing devices in class (even though the eight-year-old in scenario one is one of her students).

A 70-ish retired executive looks at the proliferation of smart devices at a social gathering and wonders what all the excitement is all about.

Trace the stories and a pattern of comfort with the technology clearly emerges—significantly, in an inverse relationship to the generation in which each protagonist belongs: The eldest generation acknowledges the existence of mobile tools but doesn't know when or how to use them. The generation prior sees these devices in use and approaches them with trepidation, not having them from day one in their career. The two generations before have matured alongside these devices and embrace every functional advance at the moment of inception. Finally, the youngest set has grown up after today's technologies have been well established and simply don't know any other way.

What this means is that newer entrants into the workforce have a very different view of mobile technology than their forebears did, and those coming right behind them have expectations that the later generations have a hard time relating to. It is this view and these expectations that are behind the BYOD movement, in which I now believe in after a lot of initial skepticism.

The simple fact is that the polarity of technology adoption has permanently reversed from where it was only a decade ago. No longer are people first introduced to the latest-and-greatest gadgetry in the office and then slowly bringing it home; rather, they are now literally growing up with cool stuff at their disposal, and if the organization they are engaged with doesn't have it, they'll either bring it in themselves or move to an organization that does—or both.

How do I know? I see it week in and week out as I speak with and teach information professionals about the governance of devices they didn't issue and have a hard time controlling. I'm convinced that because it is rooted in generational realities, BYOD is here to stay and must be a big part of the way you mind your own business going forward, but you are, of course, free to tell me to MYOB, if you like.

STEVE WEISSMAN provides expert guidance and professional training in information and process management. President of the AIIM New England Chapter and a Certified Information Professional, he is principal consultant at Holly Group. For more, email sweissman@hollygroup.com.


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