Consumerization of IT Discussions at BriForum 2011 London

At BriForum 2001 In London I also attended a lot of talks on BYOD and the consumerization of IT. The connection with BriForum is where VDI and user virtualization fit in to facilitate this. Now talk about this subject has been going on for about 5 years now and has been brought up at many TechEd sessions for example.

If that concept works, I say bring it on. Really. I mean it holds so many promises of a better world for everyone involved that we’d be nuts not to try it. I like the concept, but will it work, is it possible? If so where, when and to what extent. Anyway it’s all good stuff until that seems to require lawyers and contracts. Ouch! We’re not too good at dealing with that and I have to say that from my experience contracts are legal documents and are very useful in that arena but it won’t stop people from doing what they can where and when they can. They don’t think about using Hotmail or drop box of being “illegal” or against policy. They just use it. Look at any other corporate security and fair use policy. They are full of holes like a giant Swiss cheese. The ones demanding the policies are the ones doing most of the drilling.

But legalities aside, will it work on a very large scale in most places? Not right now I think. The dependency of the business on the current infrastructure is so big it can’t be replaced yet. So you need a transition and that means adding stuff & new possibilities and facilitating them. So initially it will only add complexity for the service desk. All the talk of not being able to retain the best and brightest might be true but the same goes for the IT personnel. You might retain a better MBA with your iPad & iPhone but you could very well lose some support personnel that go “BOINK” trying to assist a workforce with hundreds of devices and apps. Are devices and toys to be considered as benefits or as a true work instruments? Perhaps it attracts opportunistic gadget freaks instead of the best personnel. Do car policies help attract the best personnel in this day and age? I mean everyone offers it so it’s a level playing field. Perhaps not offering BYOD but providing really valuable environments works better. Flex work, telecommuting, better wages, interesting job content is still a lot better I think. The best people figure out fast that there is more and better to be had in remuneration than a device and your own app preferences.

Sure I know an iPad might attract a college graduate but they already have such high expectations (culture of entitlement) that perhaps this is not the best path to go. Corporate life is not like what you see on TV. They might as well learn that early. It’s not about a group of gorgeous young people acting important and professional whilst doing nothing, drinking rivers of macchiato form Starbucks and having affairs with the equally gorgeous colleagues. To complete the dream illusion they get paid generously for all that and at the end of the year receive a bonus to make a down payment on that city loft. Wake up! And be fair we’re talking top drawer human resources here and there in lies another issue as you’ll need to offer it to everyone in the company because, when you hear the lawyer talking, it opens you up to legal action due to discrimination if you don’t. Where is the differentiator than?

Now I’m not against it the concept. On the contrary I would love to see it work. But I’m afraid it’s not such a good proposition as it is made out to be when done in a structured way and on a large (read companywide) scale. Is it a perk or business value? I don’t have an iPad or an iPhone but I do use my tools and some devices out of corporate control to get my job done, so basically I’m there dudes. The main issue I still need to resolve is get employers to pay for expensive shiny toys I need to get my job done faster and better. The reason I don’t have them because I’m too cheap to buy them myself (so I don’t see the value to get my job done better?). But when the boss pays, well hello iPad! But I’d better not force my hand. I think my boss would say could luck at your next job if I ever told ‘m I takes an iPhone to retain me. But a CEO doesn’t have that problem. He gets a “right away sir” for an answer.

Is this for everyone? I’m not so sure. In the long term perhaps. Today no. I have generation-Y and millennial “kids” in my social circles and guess who’s asked to help them with all the tools, toys and gadgets? Right. They are indeed consumers! If you define digital natives as mere consumers than they fit the bill but I would suggest that the designation “digital natives” implies they can deal with all tech they use themselves at all times. In the end, when all self-service and tech support for their toys fail who do you think the problems ends up? Right. Ever dealt with a gadget junkie that is forced to go “cold turkey” in the blink of an eye? Face it, every helpdesk has to deal with recovering baby pictures, wedding movies, getting routers to work, helping with capturing a movie stream & configuring smartphones … consumers need support and that support has to be paid. Who does it and who pays is a different matter. Aren’t we just shifting it? What about contracts to make clear how does what, where and when? Have you ever work in a service desk in ICT for internal IT? Really? Where is all the “enabling of the business” when you’re waving with a contract as a user ends up at the service desk with a broken BYO device or application that was repaired but did not fix the issue and now they need help to get to the data stored in that obscure application you’ve never seen? And when it’s your manger are you going to put the contract in his or her face? What about the secretary that can make your life hell or heaven depending on how by the book they play? Sounds familiar? Same old, same old. One thing is for sure that cute, charming red head who’s very gadget minded and processes your requests for attending conferences doesn’t have a problem now and never will. No this is not sexist, it’s reality and you can always change the metaphor to reflect your own preferences, you’re totally free to do so Winking smile In essence what I’m saying here with freedom comes responsibility and ownership.

Then there are the practicalities who buys it and how does it get paid. You need have that figured out and organized. How do you deal with the legalities and auditing of licenses? Lawyer heaven Open-mouthed smile  Where are the tools to really manage devices and applications al those different vendors well?

Just some brainstorming and playing devil’s advocate here. Who wants this for work? Geeks. Who wants this a perks? Employees. Who wants this as a business? People selling solutions to manage and facilitate this. What does the business want?  The fact is consumerization of IT is already a reality. It just happens. It will be interesting to see how we all deal with it, why those choices are made and what their effects are. Feel free to chime in via the comments.

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