From tablets to laptops, smartphones to flip phones, members of an increasingly mobile workforce are using myriad personal gadgets to get their jobs done, and nowhere is this more true than in field service. According to a 2010 survey conducted by iPass, a major enterprise wireless service provider, more than 90 percent of mobile-enabled workers surveyed had smartphones. There are pros and cons to this “consumerisation of IT” – as Forrester Research analysts Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler referred to the growing trend in an interview with the Financial Times.

Let’s start with the good:

Employers often see increased productivity by allowing employees to use their own mobile devices in the workplace. “If an organisation empowers its workforce to use the tools and services of their own choosing, they’ll get more done,” reports the Financial Times. Instead of having to train workers on new devices that they’re not necessarily amenable to, allowing your mobile workforce to use their own gadgets will likely increase buy-in. Management also spends less time on training because their workers have already mastered their personal devices at home.

With their work email and schedules constantly at their side, workers work more and report fewer hours when they’re completely disconnected, according to iPass’s report.

And now, the bad:

New challenges will abound for managers when it comes to securing a motley crew of unsupported tech tools. This issue was “front and center” at San Francisco’s recent RSA Conference, reports Mobile device management is taking higher priority for many companies with workers in the field. What happens when one of your technicians quits, gets fired or loses his phone containing customer information and other sensitive data?

“Employers and employees will need to agree on policies that mean the employer can remotely wipe a device of all corporate data if it is lost, stolen or the employee leaves the company,” writes the Financial Times.

The solution:

Mobile device management companies such as Sybase allow employers to track the physical location of the device containing company information, remotely wipe clean a device that’s been lost or stolen and monitor and manage voice and data usage.

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.