At no other time since the introduction of the personal computer has enterprise IT undergone as monumental of a shift as it is now. Traditionally thought of as a control center first and service department second, it is becoming the exact opposite; whether IT likes it or not. IT’s new role is that of enabler.
This transition is being driven by the consumerization of IT. This trend, though certainly not new, is enjoying what might very well be considered its heyday and has led to a status change for the user. In essence, the user – and the user experience – has become a driving force in enterprise technology. This is all largely thanks to the fact that consumer technology has reached unsurpassed levels of features and performance. There are three specific technologies leading the charge: cloud, social media and mobile.
For most users, their montage of Internet-connected devices all but requires them to use some sort of cloud service for storing and accessing their information. Many cloud services have become so inexpensive or even free that users try out multiple services before picking the one they like the most. On top of that, once they find the service they like, they want to use it for work, too, and they often do – with or without IT’s knowledge. It should be noted, however, that utilizing these cloud services also has benefits to companies as well. They drive down costs, create greater focus on core business and increase deployment speed.
When it comes to social media, it has become so ingrained in users’ lives that asking them to completely disconnect from it while at work can seem almost as traumatic as asking them to give up a kidney. And it should be kept in mind that employees’ use of social media while at work is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to productivity. In some cases, sure. But think of the sales rep who uses social media to tweet an update to his clients on a new product. Or think of the PR manager who uses social media to connect with press contacts. The next major milestone here will be for organizations to not just accept this reality, but embrace it by actually implementing social elements within the organization to improve collaboration and relations.
That brings us to mobile. The pace at which mobile technology, specifically smartphones and tablets, is evolving is astonishing. In fact, it’s moving too fast for IT to keep up with it. However, users are on top of every shiny new consumer mobile device that comes out. Not only that, but the prices for these extremely capable devices are becoming low enough that even the latest of the late adopters are considering upgrading. Just consider some of the recent announcements of low cost yet highly functional tablets from well-known, consumer-trusted brands. All this is only adding to the pressure on IT from employees who want to use their personal mobile devices for work. Organizations benefit from such use, but it also creates challenges from a security and management perspective.
It’s important to note that these technologies do not exist in a vacuum separate from one another. Instead, they are actually all very much interconnected in that mobile devices more often than not act as the primary conduit through which employees access cloud services and social media. This interconnectedness enhances their capabilities and increases the demand for IT to support their use in the workplace.
IT departments need to understand that all this is likely already happening within their companies whether they allow it or not. Thus, for most organizations the correct path is to explore how they can take advantage of these consumer technologies and employees’ interest in using them to be more productive at work. Then they need to develop a phased approach to build an ecosystem that supports their plan.
In short, IT needs to accept the role of enabler. By doing so, they can make employees’ use of these technologies a reality based on IT’s terms (including information protection strategies that include policies, DLP, mobile device management and mobile application management), not the other way around.
As this happens, companies will benefit as employee use of the cloud will increase efficiency, use of social technology will improve collaboration and use of mobile devices will create greater employee flexibility. IT must be prepared to become the service organization it has been intended to be all along.