It may be tempting to think that consumerisation of IT will make the CIO’s technical duties simpler, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that consumer devices are designed to operate with a low-level of user technical knowledge and little or no technical support. But on the other side, they have not been intended to be used to store and process the sort of critical, sensitive data or communications that businesses depend on. CIOs must address these back-office issues to retain a coherent delivery of business systems, without losing the benefits of choice and flexibility.

A recent webcast hosted by CIO UK and including Simon Callow, head of IT at Aston Martin Lagonda, Owen Powell, IT director for NHS inner Northwest London and Stephen Shakespeare, EU software director at Intel, established that there are some key technical considerations that must be taken into account if any CIO is to make a success of adopting a consumerisation approach.

There is a vast number of productivity-enhancing applications that users can download onto their smart devices, without the need for the IT department’s input, but it is likely to be the more mundane ones that will have the most impact – office applications like a calendar and information streams such as news and weather forecasts are likely to be universally used. This is good news for CIOs because it indicates that there will be some standard application requirements throughout their organisation.

As Aston Martin’s Callow says, mobility is probably the key benefit that consumerisation brings and his main concern is to make it possible with respect to the sorts of enterprise applications that he has deployed.

Aston Martin has recently deployed a bundle of Microsoft applications based around the Office 365 platform. This cloud-based suite of applications allows Aston Martin employees to access shared resources, like email and scheduling anywhere on any supporting device, just as they would at their desks. Callow explains that actually, much of the workforce remains in a single building, but that doesn’t diminish the system’s ability to enhance flexible working within the office.

He adds: “Linking that through to some of the offerings like SharePoint enables us to then share the information.”

Consumerisation carries with it a certain expectation by users of reliability, which is why Callow has chosen an off-the-shelf approach to supporting employees’ mobile devices.

Lync is also used at the car manufacturer, to allow staff to know when their colleagues are contactable, all contributing to the ease of collaboration the company needs to stay competitive in the luxury car market.

“Office 365 gives us that ability to share information, share desktops, but also to see the availability of these individuals and have chat-conversations,” he says. “Whether it's through an instant-messaging solution or whether it be through video link and actually talking to a shared desktop, that then improves collaboration.”

Aston Martin’s internal use of consumerisation is mirrored by an external view. Being a consumer-facing company with a select customer base, the luxury car manufacturer cannot ignore the way its clients have embraced smart mobile devices. Social networking technology is a valuable tool for the company in keeping in touch with a loyal customer community.

From what Callow has said, being able to offer a highly integrated set of back office applications appears to be a sensible response to users’ varied needs on the move.

Intel’s Shakespeare offers a similar point of view, with the assumption that the CIO can still have a hold on the procurement decision and still satisfy a demand from employees for consumer-type technology.

Intel chips power a number of mobile devices and Shakespeare was keen to highlight the new wave of Ultrabooks – powerful but very slim laptops able to run multimedia applications with ease – that satisfy the consumer need for instant access to computing-cycle-hungry applications.

These devices are available to business users in a format designed for the commercial market. He also cited collaboration with Orange in the UK to bring out an Intel-powered smartphone, demonstrating the chip manufacturer’s commitment to offer business users a complete range of compatible mobile and desktop devices.

On this platform, CIOs can more easily build an IT architecture that supports business users wherever they are, connecting them in an appropriate way to core company data and each other.

He says: “We can enable experiences across a portfolio devices and it will enable a great deal of flexibility for CIOs to deliver these solutions to their internal customers.”

Shakespeare pointed out that Intel also has a security offering in terms of the acquisition of McAffee in 2010. This is an example of something close to Owen Powell’s heart.

Powell, at NHS Inner Northwest London, provided the last piece in the consumerisation puzzle for CIOs, which is around security. With data routes becoming device non-specific and corporate information physically roaming off the premises, security has to become more sophisticated than a mere network of firewalls.

As head of IT for a public health organisation, he is well aware of the sensitivity of the information pervading his systems. But he recognises the security model he adopts cannot be so inflexible that it cancels out the benefits of the business in terms of mobility.

He is moving away from the firewall-based approach to security to one where data is classified according to its sensitivity and the level of protection is set on that basis. He admits that the granularity of that classification is still quite limited, but he hopes that in time he will be able to set a spectrum of security levels for data going out to mobile devices.

Login systems are strictly applied so that no device, whoever owns it, is switched on without a passcode. All data that goes out to mobile devices has to be encrypted. All devices have to be set up so that they can be wiped remotely if they are lost.

He says: “Device encryption has been a standard within the NHS for a long time. We wouldn't countenance anything that wasn't encrypted, because things do get left on buses.”

Undoubtedly, CIOs face some disruption as consumerisation takes hold of the workplace, but as Callow, Shakespeare and Powell have demonstrated, there is still a need for umbrella technical architectures to get the full benefits of mobility and choice, without the IT strategy turning into chaos and the tools to help them do this are already available.