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Within two years, companies will not be issuing standard devices for work productivity. That’s one of the takeaways from a new report about the growing phenomenon of bring-your-own-technology (BYOT), from Forrester Research. 

Instead of standard issue, Forrester envisions that most companies will either give a BYOT budget allowance, or assume the employee already owns the necessary technology. The report compares the emerging BYOT mindset to employee transportation -- no one at a company asks about the employee’s choice of car or public transportation.

‘Spontaneous Groundswell’

The report is based on a survey of about 10,000 information workers in 27 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. It found that the trend is strongest in emerging markets, where about three-quarters of employees purchased their own hardware. This compares to 44% in developed countries.

The trend is also stronger for senior employees, with 77% of those at a director or above level directly paying for their PCs, smartphones or tablets used for work purposes. This alone, the company said, is reason enough that IT departments cannot ignore the trend, because “senior executives are leading the BYOT parade.”

Overall, the report found that 43% of information workers in Q4 2011 have used their own personal computer or smartphone for work, 16% have installed unsupported software and 19% have used Internet-based services that are not supported by their company’s IT department.

The most popular devices paid for entirely by the respondents were mobile phones (65% of respondents), smartphones (63%), netbooks (51%) and tablets (51%).

The report said that BYOT is currently a “voluntary, spontaneous groundswell,” but that companies will eventually shift their policies and encourage workers to use their own tech, particularly for new hires.

How to Handle?

The report also shows the extent that non-Windows devices have become a part of this trend. In 2011, 37% of workers used non-Windows technology for work, including iPads, iPhones, Macs, BlackBerries and other smartphones. This, of course, means additional headaches for IT personnel, because using Microsoft Exchange for fleet management was often the easiest path. Another IT issue is integrating the various applications with the company’s infrastructure.

And then there’s the factor that, increasingly, work and personal lives are being blurred when it comes to technology. This means that company documents and communication are being accessed on personally-owned devices, commingled with personal information and stored on personally-owned storage. Sixty-one percent reported that they use their devices for both personal and work use.

What can companies do to handle these issues? The report advises CIOs that “fighting BYOT is like the quixotic effort to resist the use of PCs or the Web in business.”

The report said that forward-looking CIOs will see BYOT “as a catalyst for building next generation applications” that exploit the features on mobile and other smart devices, and will possibly consider porting those apps to consumers.

It also predicts that CIOs will address information storage and security by increasingly switching to secure cloud-based storage, and that IT departments will learn and acquire the skills needed to contend with “an ever-expanding device and app menagerie.”

Founded in 1983, the Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester provides proprietary research, consumer and business data, custom consulting, events and online communities and peer-to-peer executive programs.