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Forrester to CIOs: End the Mac prohibition

Forrester analyst David Johnson likes to compare Macs in the enterprise with the heady days of the Prohibition Act of 1920, the great thirst, stealthy bootlegging, and the rise of the speakeasy bar.

Here's the scenario: A rigid IT staff passes down a law that there shall be no user-friendly Macs poisoning their pristine and complex Windows society. Rebellious workers continue to skirt the rule, bringing in Macs through the back door. When Macs break down, workers seek out support at the nearby speakeasy, also known as the Apple Genius Bar.

"Mac users are drinking furniture polish in back hallways, getting their fix from fellow bootleggers who have blazed the trails around IT's prohibition," Johnson writes in his report, People Are Bringing Macs to Work - It's Time to Repeal Prohibition (which includes results from a survey of 590 North American and European enterprise IT decision makers).

Johnson's colorful analogy aside, the report reveals that two out of five companies don't allow access to email or the company network on Macs, which, of course, also means supporting rogue Macs is out of the question. Nevertheless, 22 percent of enterprises see the use of employee-owned Macs increasing significantly.

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Employees sneak Macs to work because their ease of use ultimately allows them to be more productive. Moreover, Forrester says most Macs today are being brought into the office by executives, top sales reps and other workaholics. Consider that the laptop is the primary business and productivity tool for many people. Power laptop users work an average of 45 hours per week, mostly on their computer, Forrester says.

With so much valuable time spent on the computer, it's no surprise workers are willing to go outside the lines to use the best computer for their job.

Then there's the push factor: the hangover of old Windows machines. "Coupled with 'Window's rot'-a gradual degradation in Windows performance over time-they eat away at productivity and drive frustrated users to bring their own computers," Johnson writes.

Forrester advises companies to end the Mac prohibition.

CIOs can lean on their outlaw Mac pros to usher in the Mac era in a formal way. These Mac experts can collect "magic cocktail recipes" for email configuration, VPN access, as well as a list of good apps, and then publish them on a wiki or SharePoint site, according to Johnson.

"Those of us who have lived in places where prohibition still reigns know that it doesn't really stop anyone from having a wee nip with dinner-they just bring their own," Johnson writes, adding, "Those continuing to force prohibition risk being labeled as irrelevant at best and are holding back the competitive potential of the company's employees."

Tom Kaneshige covers Apple and Networking for CIO.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Tom at tkanshige@cio.com

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