Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Boy, my new iPad and I are demanding a lot from IT -- and we're not alone

I caved and joined the revolution this weekend. I bought an iPad.

And while it was very fun to do all the things that a newly minted Apple fan boy does (like downloading the app that turns the iPad into ones like they had on Star Trek: The Next Generation), that was just the beginning. I had yet to try to torment my internal IT department with my demands.

First and foremost: I wanted to use my iPad as part of my normal work day. I'm certainly not the first to want this. The appearance of consumer-purchased devices that employees would like to have (must be!) supported by internal IT is getting an amazing amount of attention. Though not always from IT departments, if they can help it. In addition, it’s not just 1 or 2 folks who want to start using tablets, smartphones, and the like. It’s everyone.

What does “not supported” mean for my iPad?

So, first thing Monday, I tried my luck linking into our IT systems. It started off innocently enough: I easily connected to the in-office wireless network. The first real test was going to be whether I could get my corporate email and calendar.

IT had obviously been through this before; there is a document in place on our help system that explains how to do everything. Unfortunately, it starts like this: "Please check if this iPad was purchased for business purposes or if it was a personal purchase. Note: personal machines are not supported."

Hmmm. That sounded ominous. But, despite being “not supported,” it was really simple to enable email and calendar access. I had to add some security precautions, as you might expect, but it worked. My fingers are crossed that it continues to work, given the help I’m not going to get. And, of course, there are a multitude of our enterprise apps I’m not getting access to.

But I’m satisfied. For now. But not everyone is. And corporations certainly shouldn’t be.

Cloud computing, intriguing mobile devices (and what you can do with them) are ganging up on IT

My process of tormenting IT with my iPad started Monday, but it’s guaranteed to last for a long time. And, as I said, the key issue is that I’m not alone.

People – and, yes, it’s about the people and what they (er, I) want to do – have devices that they love that give them easy, constant access. That should be good. There’s a blurring of the boundary between business and personal that businesses stand to gain from.

Cloud-based resources give organizations a fighting chance to scale sufficiently to keep up with the volume driven by these more-and-more-ubiquitous tablets and smartphones. But management and security are often thought of way too late.

In a piece posted at, Dan Woods, CTO and editor of CITO Research, noted that “the IT monopoly has ended but the need to ensure security, reliability, compliance, and integration has not. Most consumerization efforts are long on choice and short on ways to actually address that fact that IT’s responsibilities to manage the issues have not disappeared.”

Shirking management and security – or leaving it as an afterthought – will not cut it this time around, especially since users don’t think twice about going around the official IT channels, something that those official IT channels really can’t afford to have happen if they are going to get their jobs done.

The train is moving faster than you thought

In a study called “IT Consumers Transform the Enterprise: Are You Ready?” that IDC published a few weeks back (free copy without registration here; CA Technologies was a sponsor), they mention these needs – and the speed they need to be dealt with. “The train is moving faster than you thought. Adoption of public cloud, mobile, and social technologies in business operations has already reached high levels, often driven by ‘stealth IT.’”

IDC noted a “surprisingly high” (and concerning) level of personal and confidential information sharing. While the “consumerization of IT” introduces a bunch of new, innovative services and approaches into the enterprise, it also exposes the org to “business risk, compliance gaps, and security challenges if they are not managed.”

An InfoWorld article by Nancy Gohring noted another IDC study that found that even as more and more people are bringing their own tablets and smartphones to work, IT departments have been “slow to support them and may not even be aware of the trend.” Slow, I understand (given I just bought my first iPad a few days ago); not aware, however, is a recipe for big headaches ahead.

What are those ahead of the train doing to stay ahead?

Not everyone, however, is behind the curve. Part of the IDC survey I mentioned earlier highlighted the top characteristics of leaders in this area – as in, what behaviors are they showing. The leaders are more likely to be those using IaaS, PaaS, and Saas; those who are interacting with customers using their smart mobile devices; those who are concerned about data protection, back-up, and end-to-end user experience. “Businesses that are being proactive about consumer-driven IT are more likely to realize greater benefits from investments made to address the consumerization of IT,” said IDC’s Liam Lahey in a recent blog that summarized their survey findings.

In addition, in Woods’ Forbes article, he pointed out some questions that need asking, many at an application level: “Supporting mobile workers adds a new dimension to every application in a company. Which applications should be supported on mobile devices? How much of each application should be available? When does it make sense to craft custom mobile solutions? How can consumer apps become part of the picture? What is [the] ROI for mobility? How much should be invested[?] None of these questions have obvious answers.” Another post of his has some good suggested approaches for IT.

My CA Technologies colleague Andi Mann did a good job of netting this all out in another recent post: “While a minority of leading organizations already ‘get it’, there is still a massive latent opportunity to establish new game-changing technologies, drive disruptive innovations, build exponential revenues, and beat your competitors.” In other words, having IT bury its head in the sand is going to mean missing some opportunities that don’t come along very often to reshape the competitive landscape.

Especially when you couple the support of these tablets and other mobile devices with the changes coming about with the rise of cloud computing.

Look in the mirror

In the end, says Andi, “it’s all about you! ...The bottom line is that you — as an individual, as a consumer, as an employee, as an IT professional — are responsible for a radical change affecting business, government, and IT. You are both driving this change as a consumer of social, mobile, and cloud applications; and being driven by this change as an IT professional adapting to these new customer behaviors.”

Maybe TIME Magazine wasn’t wrong a few years back when they named You as their Person of the Year (congrats, by the way) with a big mirror-like thing on their front cover. It’s just that the revolution always takes longer than people think, and the results are never quite evenly distributed.

I’m a perfect example. I've been involved in cloud computing for many years, but didn’t join this particular part of the revolution -- the part where I expect flicking my fingers on a piece of glass will get me access to what I want -- until this past weekend.

But I’ll probably be confounding IT departments left and right from now on. Make it so.

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