The art of ceding control of consumer technology

Rather than restrict Web 2.0 apps in the workplace, IT departments should adopt a "Zen-like" acceptance of them, one analyst says

Organisations are being overrun with consumer technologies like instant messaging, mobile devices, Skype and social networking tools as workers seek to infuse the workplace with the productivity these tools have given them in their personal lives.

The influx of these consumer technologies cannot be stopped by IT shops, which instead should opt for a “Zen-like acceptance” of the tools and new approaches to IT support, according to a study by the Yankee Group.

Almost 50% of end users feel that they have more control over installing applications and software on their work PC than IT has, according to the study, titled “Zen and the Art of Rogue Employee Management”. In addition, 86% of end users surveyed by Yankee reported that they use at least one unsanctioned consumer technology at work, and the average number in use is four, says Joshua Holbrook, a Yankee analyst and author of the report.

“The adoption of consumer technology in the enterprise has a huge impact on the support and customer care IT has to provide,” Holbrook says. “You can’t keep up with the pace of consumer technology. You can’t support it all yourself because there are too many. You can’t ignore it. The only alternative is to outsource some of the responsibility to the end users.”

Yankee suggests that IT shops take the Zen-like tact of coming to terms with the fact that the consumer technologies will continue to flourish in the enterprise. Instead of trying to manage these technologies with traditional IT support mechanisms, IT departments should put into place a “customer care co-op”, he says.

“A care cop-op is a community-based support mechanism where the end users share with their colleagues,” Holbrook says. “Ultimately that enables end users to bypass IT for the more mundane support issues. That frees up IT ... and enables them to focus on the innovative side of IT.”

Instead of dictating policy or enforcing standards, IT’s role is to “set guidelines and steer users in the right direction”, according to the report. Organisations should use wikis, blogs and tagging so that employees can form their own social communities around certain types of technology to help answer technical support questions for each other, Holbrook says. End users could be rated for their ability to help others, so that other users will know they’re getting quality advice. Enterprises should provide incentives for employees who use these self-service models before calling on IT for support, the report suggests.

Holbrook says the idea of trying to manage consumerisation is a serious issue for every IT manager and IT department he spoke to during his research. Most don’t have a solution, he says, but it is not feasible to ignore the onslaught of these new technologies.

“IT can’t manage an ecosystem if it doesn’t know what the elements of that ecosystem are,” he says. “There does need to be some centralisation so they understand what is running on their networks, on their PCs and how those things interact. To divorce yourself from the IT infrastructure and the elements running on your networks is suicide.”

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Tags managementworkplacesweb 2.0 apps

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