There are many terms or phrases often thrown about in technology conversations, and as IT consumerization gains traction, BYOD has become an increasingly popular topic for discussion. While we can thank the iPhone for this concept of users bringing their own devices into the enterprise, the growth of BYOD was further exacerbated by the popularity of consumer technologies such as the iPad and Android operating systems. However when we take a minute to further examine BYOD’s popularity in the workplace , it is apparent that the real reason users embrace this concept is their perception their personal technology is more capable than their employer’s IT departments can or are willing to provide.
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Users of technology will force change where technology fails to meet their expectations-This has always been the case. Take for example how the first automated telephone switch came about:
In the late 19th century an undertaker in Kansas City, Missouri by the name of Almon Strowger became frustrated with the telephone company. During this period, the telephone network was very different to how it is today and operators were required to physically patch calls through to receiving parties by plugging cables into the sockets. Strowger was convinced that a switch operator was romantically linked to one of his competitors and as a result was redirecting calls intended for his business to his adversary. Frustrated with the manual process of connecting telephone calls and the subsequent opportunity for either corruption or error, Strowger became set on finding a way to remove the human element from the process. This ultimately led to the invention of one of the first automated telephone switches. What is fascinating about this story is how closely it resembles IT in today’s enterprise.
In today’s enterprise, IT is much like a 19th century telephone company, controlling the infrastructure and ultimately how the user interacts with it. When IT fails to live up to user expectations or challenges user productivity, users ultimately set out to find their own solutions- a huge driver for BYOD and the IT consumerization.
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Avoiding the Inevitable…
Today’s tech-savvy users have brought on a new set of problems for IT in the enterprise. Not only do they have a massive infrastructure to maintain but they also struggle with the need to balance IT control with a flexible and seamless user experience.
There are also instances when IT has to meet the expectations of other industry entities before they can begin to take the necessary next steps towards better serving their users. The healthcare industry is a perfect example of this. Healthcare IT is fraught with compliance requirements that in many cases prevent the use of newer technology. Take for example the power and capabilities of cloud computing solutions. Cloud-based platforms have the ability to provide healthcare institutions with increased storage and computing capacity using limited dollars. However despite the benefits, governance requirements for many in the sector rule this out as an option.
The problem comes where a lack of understanding (or empathy) on behalf of the user exists, thus they set out on obtaining their own solutions. Often, Healthcare IT departments or any IT department for that matter, will roll out a policy that goes far beyond what is actually required because there are no solutions that provide a middle ground. For example: They will prohibit the use of over-the-web synchronization of data because the use of cloud computing services to store data is prohibited. However, in many cases such functionality is available without the use of a cloud.
Everyone is talking about how quickly the explosion of cloud computing and BYOD is evolving and as a result causing more challenges for IT. While this is certainly true, it is important to remember that there has always been an instinctual need for individuals to be more productive at what they do. In an age where users have become increasingly mobile and are dedicating more time to the workplace, this need for technologies that enable user productivity has become more and more important. If the user perceives IT as a “productivity blocker” they will ultimately set out to discover ways around them and establish their own solutions. The key is understanding and compromise. When a user says they want their data in the cloud, oftentimes they actually mean they want the cloud-service experience. Users don’t actually care (or even comprehend) where their data physically resides as long as they can access it efficiently. By understanding the actual user requirement (or desire), IT can combine a range technology services to provide a “solution” that works for all parties.