How consumerization of IT is changing who's in control
There's a battle brewing in the enterprise around the disruptive force of consumerization. The desire to use consumer technology at work is forcing companies to take risks with information security and compliance that's causing a schism between worker demand for information access and IT department corporate policies.
Consumerization of IT is a complex, multifaceted issue that cannot be ignored. Workers want seamless and collaborative experiences across devices at work and at home, though most of them have little knowledge of what it takes to make that happen. IT departments are reluctant to surrender control, even when the change signals a new world of work. This world is comprised of workers who are increasingly mobile, lack shared context across virtual teams and are often strangers to one another and represent intangible value that is difficult to quantify. Next-generation CIOs and information professionals need to understand next-generation workers, though little is known about this internal consumer of information.
Organizations need to recognize that the role of IT—and the executive suite itself—is changing. Breakthrough thinking, value-creating innovation and calculated risks have never been more important to achieving competitive differentiation in business. The best way to empower and technologically enable modern workers may be to simply get out of their way. Some pundits go so far as to suggest IT's success in the future could be measured by how well it gives up control.
That's an extreme view not entirely shared by all CIOs. Instead, they advocate IT changing its mental model from "compete and control" to one of "leverage and enable" so that it can take advantage of the opportunities ahead. Here are five actionable recommendations:
1. Create a decision framework. Not all consumer technologies have a place in the enterprise. Many present unnecessary risks. A framework that analyzes risk/reward as a business decision will help your organization find the right balance and spur innovation intelligently. As the economy continues its slow recovery, CIOs that have a finger on the pulse of the consumerization of IT will be among the winners who can capitalize on this disruption. Rick Roy, senior vice president and CIO at CUNA Mutual Group, says, "Organizations need a consistent decision framework to prevent a free-for-all while still embracing the innovation we're seeing on the consumer side. Technology needs to support the business strategy, and each trend—social, mobile and cloud—should be evaluated on its own merit."
2. Stay ahead of the users. People in IT should be technology junkies. Build an IT culture around watching consumer (and IT) technology trends, looking for ways to bring the latest and greatest into the organization. Companies need to recognize that the role of the CIO—and the executive suite itself—is changing with the business and technology landscape. Dr. Curt Carver, University System of Georgia vice chancellor and CIO, observes that to stay relevant, IT must embrace the changes being driven by innovative consumer technologies and find ways to connect those technologies to business requirements.
3. Know your true mission. Adopt the mantra: match technology (whatever it is) to achieving your business goals and strategies. Best-in-class technology is great. Technology that fits your organization is even better. Consumerization of IT is less about the technology and more about a practical desire to achieve business objectives as quickly and efficiently as possible. While IT engages in extensive (and expensive) product evaluations and negotiations, a line-of-business manager might get frustrated by the delays and sign up for a cloud solution on a month-to-month basis. When that happens, IT has lost its way.
4. Connect the dots. In today's social world, one of IT's greatest callings is to help make sure information moves fast and efficiently from a mega-sized database to bite-sized tablets and smartphones. One example of this is to set up a company app store that gives employees the flexibility to customize their experience, whether on devices or desktops. Companies currently experimenting with their own branded app stores report they enhance user adoption and reduce the need for employees to look outside the organization for solutions.
5. Visibly change tech support. By default, IT assumes users are clueless. Users, on the other hand, see IT as frustrating, slow and outmoded. This is a broken model, and it has to change. One approach is to borrow from consumer concepts and move to a "genius bar" model, where IT strives to bring enlightenment and joy to its customers. Besides making their applications incredibly intuitive, cloud vendors make extensive use of self-help videos and online training to minimize human intervention. By following this model, your really smart technology experts can focus on helping people derive more value from technology and less time worrying about trivial problems.
In direct contradiction to widely held beliefs, this moment represents not the end of IT or the CIO but, rather, the beginning of a new age of information and technology-driven innovation that is getting stronger with each new level of worker expectations.
JOHN MANCINI is president and CEO of AIIM, the Association for Information and Image Management, author of "OccupyIT — A Technology Manifesto for Cloud, Mobile and Social Era" as well as articles relevant to the information professional and is a frequent speaker at conferences focused on the challenges of managing information use in an era of social, mobile, cloud and big data. The conclusions reached at the Executive Leadership Council on the consumerization of IT can be found at www.aiim.org/consumerizationofIT.