Con­sumer­ized IT

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Business Strategy - WRIT­TEN BY MARK ABOUD

Em­ploy­ees are telecom­mut­ing and work­ing re­motely, they’re bring­ing their own lap­tops into work, and they’re us­ing smart­phones and tablets to ex­tend that work out­side of the of­fice.

But it doesn’t stop there: Cloud com­put­ing and so­cial net­works rep­re­sent new ways for work­ers to con­nect, com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate. And em­ploy­ees are also us­ing third-party consumer apps in­ter­change­ably for busi­ness and per­sonal use. What this means is that the bound­aries be­tween our work and per­sonal lives are no longer clearly de­fined.

One of the big­gest chal­lenges for or­ga­ni­za­tions to­day is the con­sumer­iza­tion of IT, which ba­si­cally means that consumer tech­nolo­gies are shap­ing IT strat­egy in the work­place. With this de­vice pro­lif­er­a­tion and ex­plo­sion in so­cial me­dia comes man­age­ment headaches for an or­ga­ni­za­tion’s IT depart­ment, which has less con­trol over the tech­nol­ogy be­ing used in the work­place than ever be­fore.

Re­search firm Gart­ner pre­dicts that con­sumer­iza­tion of IT is go­ing to be one of the hottest trends of this decade. And many CIOs say it’s among their top pri­or­i­ties right now. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, and an area that or­ga­ni­za­tions should look at closely over the next cou­ple of years.

Ac­cord­ing to Oster­man Re­search, in its 2011 Con­sumer­ized IT Se­cu­rity Sur­vey, more than 80 per cent of those sur­veyed are let­ting their em­ploy­ees use con­sumer­ized IT prod­ucts and ser­vices for busi­ness com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

But ac­cord­ing to re­search firm In­ter­na­tional Data Corp., many em­ploy­ers don’t seem to know how many or what type of consumer tech­nolo­gies are be­ing used in their work­place, and work­ers re­ported us­ing consumer-driven de­vices at twice the rate em­ploy­ers re­ported. Work­ers are also dis­sat­is­fied with the level of IT sup­port pro­vided for consumer tech­nolo­gies.

And although em­ploy­ers want to in­crease the busi­ness use of so­cial net­work­ing over the next year, few are in­te­grat­ing those tech­nolo­gies into ex­ist­ing en­ter­prise apps, and most or­ga­ni­za­tions lack guide­lines for so­cial me­dia in the work­place, IDC said.

Be­cause tech­nol­ogy — par­tic­u­larly mo­bile tech­nol­ogy — is rapidly chang­ing the mar­ket, or­ga­ni­za­tions are be­ing forced to im­ple­ment this new tech­nol­ogy more quickly or deal with em­ploy­ees bring­ing their own de­vices into work.

In the desk­top world, IT de­part­ments typ­i­cally have only had to man­age PCs and Macs. In the mo­bile world, how­ever, they’re man­ag­ing lap­tops, tablets and smart­phones with dif­fer­ent op­er­at­ing sys­tems and dif­fer­ent ver­sions.

Sup­port is needed for the myr­iad de­vices, in­clud­ing iPhones, Androids, Black­Ber­rys and other mo­bile plat­forms. IT de­part­ments have to man­age the use of cloud com­put­ing and soft­ware-as-a-ser­vice, from Drop­box for file shar­ing to Sales­ for cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship man­age­ment. And they have to mon­i­tor the use of so­cial me­dia in the work­place, such as Face­book and Twit­ter, which of­ten blurs the line be­tween work and per­sonal use.

The big­gest con­cern around con­sumer­ized IT is se­cu­rity and pri­vacy, from theft to com­pli­ance to in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty pro­tec­tion. Other con­cerns are com­pat­i­bil­ity with ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture and man­age­ment of this type of environment.

While some or­ga­ni­za­tions are in de­nial, oth­ers have dealt with this by dic­tat­ing which de­vices their em­ploy­ees can use in the work­place – but this is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly harder to en­force. Even if or­ga­ni­za­tions have a pol­icy against the use of per­sonal de­vices at work, re­search shows there are a high per­cent­age of “rene­gade” em­ploy­ees who will use their own de­vices any­way.

Con­sumer­ized IT in the work­place is here to stay, which is forc­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions to fun­da­men­tally change the way they oper­ate. In many ways this is a good thing – it al­lows em­ploy­ees to be more pro­duc­tive, en­gaged and ag­ile. And with­out it, they run the risk of not be­ing able to at­tract and re­tain the best tal­ent, who ex­pect to have the same (or bet­ter) func­tion­al­ity at work as they do at home.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions need to plan for con­sumer­ized IT to reap the ben­e­fits it can pro­vide, while pro­tect­ing their data and main­tain­ing com­pli­ance. Rather than just say­ing no to em­ploy­ees, talk to them, find out what tech­nol­ogy they’re us­ing and how they’re us­ing it. De­velop a strat­egy to sup­port and man­age mul­ti­ple consumer de­vices and pro­vide the same type of user ex­pe­ri­ence in the work­place.

SAP, for ex­am­ple, has a de­vice-ag­nos­tic ap­proach, al­low­ing us to run pretty much any type of mo­bile de­vice on our in­fra­struc­ture. And we were also one of the first com­pa­nies to adopt the iPad, which has given our em­ploy­ees un­prece­dented flex­i­bil­ity — and given us a com­pet­i­tive edge in the mar­ket­place.

There are plenty of tools and tech­nolo­gies avail­able that can help man­age this rapidly chang­ing environment, but it’s equally im­por­tant to up­date your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. Any strat­egy around con­sumer­ized IT should not only in­clude a tech­nol­ogy com­po­nent, but also em­ployee ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing. This can help your or­ga­ni­za­tion mit­i­gate the risks of con­sumer­ized IT, while en­hanc­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity and in­no­va­tion.

Mark Aboud is the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of SAP Canada.

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