When staff would rather give up their holiday than their iPhone, the time has come to stop ignoring the consumerisation of IT, says silicon.com editor Steve Ranger.
Letting workers bring their own laptops and smartphones to work is a curiously divisive and emotive subject among IT professionals.
When silicon.com started covering the consumerisation of IT, about five years ago, one of our earliest stories on the subject elicited this reader comment: “The one constant in IT is that you can’t trust users, this is doomed to failure.”
And that was back when the idea was only a gleam in the eye of a manic futurologist. Now the chance to choose your own kit is a perk expected by many staff.
However, even now – when the average worker is far more tech-savvy than even five years ago – similar assumptions of impending doom seem to be fashionable among many IT workers. Users, they believe, can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves.
As a result, the consumerisation of IT is turning into a tremendous opportunity for the IT department to prove once and for all how irrelevant and utterly out of touch it is.
Too many IT workers think they know far more than the users they are supposed to support. That may be true when it comes to the corporate infrastructure, the ERP, the CRM and how to make sure that venerable database server doesn’t fall over again.
But when it comes to gadgets, we’re all on a fairly level playing field. Non-IT staff know what they want their office hardware to do and what it’s actually capable of.
According to research out recently, half of workers now want to choose their work mobile for themselves. No surprise there, perhaps – it’s likely your home PC or tablet could easily outshine the ageing hardware your IT department can afford to supply you with.
However, here’s an interesting wrinkle: nearly three-quarters of workers are now such big fans of using their own kit they would give up on office perks including free coffee, free food and office supplies if they were allowed to use their own devices in return.
One in five of these gadget lovers even claimed to…
…be willing to give up on a day’s holiday.
Coffee? Donuts? Day off? No thanks, I’d rather have my iPhone.
It’s worth repeating. Workers are now so concerned about their hardware they are willing to give up their precious, precious holiday to make sure they have the kit they want and need to do their jobs.
What’s just as striking is that these workers aren’t just saying this because of their love of shiny gadgets – half of the respondents to the Sybase-sponsored survey also said work-related apps make them more productive, and the more apps they used, the more productive they felt they were. Many workers would be more willing to use apps if they were easier to get – almost half said they would use an employer-provided app store, for example.
Here you have workers interested in technology, understanding the opportunities it can bring them and keen for more. And what does the IT department do?
It ignores them.
Almost half of those surveyed said they don’t have access to the mobile applications to ensure they can do their jobs as well from their mobile devices as they can from their work computers, and only one in three said their IT department is good at managing mobile infrastructure.
The IT department had better get up to speed fast, because right now that’s the key way to offer a superior experience to their users as well as boost productivity.
Not that the users are letting this stop them, of course. They’re cheerfully getting on with the job of working around their IT department. One in three send work-related emails and documents to their personal email accounts and one in four have also conducted work-related email exchanges on their personal mobile devices, according to the research.
All of this is, of course, a tremendous missed opportunity. The IT folk should be at the heart of this, advising their colleagues on the best kit, the best apps and making sure all the security is in place. And yes, there’s even a role for IT to patrol the boundaries and make sure workers don’t end up filling their kit with malware and other naughty stuff.
The consumerisation of IT is good news for IT. It means users are becoming more motivated to use their kit properly, which means IT can stop being a helpdesk and get on with the fun stuff.
When all PCs were beige boxes and phones could only make voice calls it was easy to keep users satisfied. Now there is choice aplenty in every electronics retailer, the IT department has to try harder.
The question now has to be, should IT stay in the basement looking after the servers – good luck with that when the CFO wakes up to this ‘cloud’ thing – or should it be out there, helping the rest of the business get smarter and faster by embracing the devices and apps users bring into it?
The answer is clear. It’s time to trust the users a bit more.
Agree, disagree? Let us know by posting a comment below.
Steve Ranger is the editor of silicon.com and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, culture and business for over a decade.