The iPhone has finally arrived. Apple sold more than 500,000 of the little darlings the first weekend, and you can be sure that some of the people who bought them are at your company. They'll want to use their iPhones for work. And no matter what Gartner says, if one of them is your CEO, you've got no choice.
Do users want these gadgets because they're useful business tools or because they're yuppie bling? Doesn't matter. They're here. We know that saying no won't work. Either we support iPhones on our own terms, or we'll waste endless energy in cat-and-mouse games with users, all the while generating bad feelings that will sabotage everything else we do.
So let's stop kidding ourselves. For IT, the iPhone isn't a choice. It's a project.
Like every project, it must have a business sponsor. And user requirements. And a plan for budget and deliverables.
It doesn't have to be a big, complex project. In fact, it shouldn't be. This is a chance to prove that we can handle a quick, lightweight project that makes politically powerful users happy without risking security or stability.
You know how to do it. But here's your cheat sheet anyway:
- Identify a business sponsor for the iPhone support project. That's likely your highest-ranking iPhone user, but mainly it's someone to take the business-side political heat. Remember, no business sponsor, no iPhone support - and you're off the hook.
- Make clear that IT won't pay for iPhones. Any business user with a good enough reason can find the necessary money in his own budget.
- Acquire a testbed iPhone. You don't really think users will put up with endless testing that ties up their brand-new toys, do you?
- Explain clearly to users that at first, your iPhone support will be minimal - and that you'll expand it as quickly as you can, but your main priority is preventing thieves and hackers from hurting either the users or the company.
- Ask each iPhone user for the one specific area that's most important for IT to get working first. And don't just aggregate these responses; prioritize on the basis of what's easiest, what's most practical and what comes from your most politically important users.
- Record serial numbers. Photograph each device. Make a big show of this. It tells users you're taking it all seriously - and guarantees you know each authorized iPhone user.
- Password-protect iPhone voice-mail accounts. Even a weak, easy-to-remember password is better than AT&T 's default, which is to check Caller ID to see if the iPhone is calling. These days, Caller ID is easy for even amateurs to spoof.
- Start figuring out IMAP over SSL. That's what you'll be using to support email on the iPhone.
- Set up a plan for rolling out configuration changes and security adjustments and for confirming firmware updates - and make sure users know about it. That's your excuse for continuing to track who's using iPhones, and it helps kill their temptation to go it alone.
- Roll out changes early and often, especially security-related changes. Don't just roll them up into big releases; that may be less labor-intensive, but it means you'll lose the face time with important users.
Remember, every time those users see you expanding what they can do with their iPhones, the more impressed they'll be that IT is actually working for them.
And that makes the iPhone very useful to us - even if it is just yuppie bling.
Frank Hayes is Computerworld's senior news columnist, has covered IT for more than 20 years. Contact him at email@example.com