Over the last eight or nine years we have seen a very significant change take place out there in user-land – many have referred to it as the Consumerization of IT, whereby consumer technology has begun to impact the technology choices that the enterprise is making use of and in some cases being forced to use.
The vast choice of mobile devices available and ease of use of such devices has radically changed the way in which we all interact with technology by moving it as something that most of the population use every day rather than it being something that you had to use in the office or something that the nerds do. The mobile phone for many was the entrant into this new world where the desire to be available by telephone in almost any part of the world became a highly regarded requirement. As we became users of the technology, Apple entered the market and helped it shift up a gear by driving the cool must-have end to the market, simplifying usage along the way, thus carrying us all along with it. Before we knew it, we were craving the latest Apple or Android device, including the newer large screen devices (tablets) that were (and still are) effectively just bigger form factor phones.
The key to all of these consumer devices was simply ease of use – they were easy enough for mom and dad to pick up and use, and hey, even grandma and grandpa could pick one up and be making and taking phone calls and photographs in no time at all.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that the IT that we were using in the office just wasn’t quite as easy to use as the IT in our pockets and so as a result we began to use our own IT to conduct office activities, starting with email and calendar activities as these were native applications to our own IT.
The transformation was beginning – we were realizing that there were better, easier ways to perform certain tasks than our respected IT departments had been telling us and that we could be in more control of how and when we did things. A few years ago, I was the CIO of a small company where one of the team brought in his shiny new iPhone, demanding that he be able to get his email on it. At the time, we could not accommodate the request since there was no way to remotely manage the device or more importantly clear out his emails and calendar information should he leave the business. It was actually during this very conversation way back in 2008 when I realized the importance of giving the user the capability to work when and where they wanted to, since it was clearly a motivator for this chap. It didn’t happen overnight but we searched out solutions that would allow our users to make use of their own IT to access our systems, so long as we could remote wipe them should the need arise. In these early days the users would accept the fact that the IT team could wipe their entire device because they were so overjoyed at being able to use their own kit to conduct business at a time that they desired – it was almost like having competitive edge over their colleagues as they could check email and prepare for their day before they actually arrived in the office.
As our personal devices have become ever smarter by virtue of there being a plethora of applications available to them today from checking the weather through to creating content and on to being able to store that content online, securely and be able to access it from any device in any location at any time. Our lives have become ever more online and our tolerance of complex IT has lessened significantly, where we are actively rejecting standard enterprise policies and procedures in the quest of simplicity and ease of use. No longer will we accept that our personal information may be wiped at will by some guy in IT who doesn’t seem to understand my needs quite like I do, resulting in a real challenge for the CIO.
The result of this? Well we (as users) see ourselves actively working around policies in a bid to make our lives easier. Clearly, IT management may see this as the users turning into potential hackers and raise the risk associated with the user population when in the most part, the users are just trying to get things done more efficiently.
The CIO who has taken steps to listen to the requests and needs of the user is embracing the transformation as it is occurring and should ultimately begin to see a happier, more productive workforce who will always be testing out the boundaries of reach, but who will help increase profitability as they know how and when they want and need to work. Sure, data security must remain center stage for the CIO as he/ she remains responsible for corporate data security, but working with the user population to deliver services that can enhance their satisfaction and ultimately throughput can only serve to help increase profitability while maintaining staff motivation. In today’s disposable world, where staff have way more of a choice of where they want to work, the CIO who is providing a motivational work environment is always going to be a popular guy.
The question is where does our transformation go next and how will we all react?