Is every employee a digital employee?

Why the IT function no longer holds a monopoly on IT.

The integration of digital requirements into most work processes and growing employee digital dexterity are leading to a world where every employee is a digital employee.

“Today's employees possess a greater degree of digital dexterity,” says Matt Cain, research vice president, Gartner.

“They operate their own wireless networks at home, attach and manage various devices, and use apps and Web services in almost every facet of their personal lives. They participate in sharing economies for transport, lodging and more.”

This results in unprecedented numbers of workers who enjoy using technology and recognise the relevance of digitalisation to a wide range of business models.

They also routinely apply their own technology and technological knowledge to streamline their work life.

Gartner has outlined several ways in which the IT organisation should exploit employees' digital dexterity:

Implement a digital workplace strategy

The digital workplace is a business strategy that promotes employee agility and engagement through a more consumer-like computing environment.

Most organisations approach the consumerisation of IT in a disjointed way, with specific technology initiatives such as mobile or social.

Very few have a strategic vision where the business benefits of consumerisation are thoroughly analysed and implemented in a methodical and synergistic way across business units.

Making computing resources more accessible in ways that match employees' preferences will foster engagement by providing feelings of empowerment and ownership.

The digital workplace strategy should therefore complement HR initiatives by addressing and improving factors such as workplace culture, autonomous decision making, work-life balance, recognition of contributions and personal growth opportunities.

“IT leaders are in a unique position to strategically sense and respond to a set of seemingly disconnected business initiatives for employees, partners and customers,” Cain adds.

“The central thread that ties them all together is the consumerisation of technology, and a failure to engage with this will further marginalise the IT group.”

Embrace shadow IT

Over the next several years, Gartner predicts that IT spending will increasingly occur outside the consolidated IT budget.

“Shadow IT" is the term sometimes used to describe the situation when business units buy, own and operate IT resources with little or no assistance from the IT group,” Cain adds.

“Many IT departments consider shadow IT inefficient and a source of risk, and see part of their role as containing its spread. This approach is not only futile but a waste of valuable talent in the workforce.

“Shadow IT investments often exceed 30 percent of total IT spend. This will only increase because demand for new apps and services to pursue digital opportunities outstrips the capacity of IT to provide them.

“At the same time, cloud services will mature and employee demographics will shift to increasingly technically savvy employees frustrated by the pace of traditional IT, and with the skills to find their own IT solutions.”

Rather than try to fight the tide, the IT organisation should develop a framework that outlines when it is appropriate for business units and individuals to use their own technology solutions and when IT should take the lead.

As a result, IT should position itself as a business partner and consultant that does not control all technology decisions in the business.

Use a bimodal approach

To meet the demands of fast-evolving business and workforce dynamics, Gartner suggests that organisations adopt a bimodal approach to IT operations.

Bimodal IT separates the risk-averse and "slow" methods of traditional IT from the fast-paced demands of digital business, which is underpinned by the digital workplace.

This dual mode of operation is essential to satisfy the ever-increasing demands of digitally savvy business units and employees, while ensuring that critical IT infrastructure and services remain stable and uncompromised.

With the accelerating pace of technology evolution, Gartner said that organisations that can embrace and exploit new and emerging technologies will be in a position to reap substantial competitive advantage.

“Organisations that formally embrace and extend the digital competencies of their employees will experience improved business outcomes and gain competitive advantage,” Cain adds.

“The trick, however, will be to ensure that employees willingly embrace new technology, rather than feel threatened by it.”

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