If you're like me, you've spent a good part of your time off this winter with technology. No, I'm not talking about taking work home on your holiday break. I'm talking about activities such as the following:
* Loading music onto your new iPod Nano.
* Emancipating your relatives' PCs from viruses.
* Trying to moderate your kids' use of computer games without being a grinch.
It's amazing how pervasive personal technology has become. And while some of these consumer technologies may seem worlds apart from the corporate computing environment, they're not. There are at least a few potentially disruptive trends that are likely to emerge as a result of the widespread use of personal technology. Each of these trends will have a significant effect on the IT organisation and IT management. Here are some trends to consider:
IT loss of control of the desktop.
I can foresee a time when IT simply gives up trying to control the desktop -- and that time may not be too far off. We are already seeing some organizations allotting money to employees and allowing them to buy their own desktop technology. Does this sound crazy? Maybe not. In a world where e-mail and applications are accessible through phones, handheld devices and laptops, why should we require employees to use the "standard-issue" PC?
With security and software distribution managed at the network/server level, the desktop device becomes less relevant. Of course, this brave new world does have serious implications from a support standpoint. Lower support and maintenance costs are among the main drivers of standardisation. There are also implications for asset management and tracking. It's hard enough to manage and track desktop assets when the IT department is procuring and managing all the hardware.
My advice: Plan for a long-term future where neither standardisation nor central procurement of desktop IT assets is a given.
Consumer-driven technology adoption.
It used to be that corporations dictated and drove technology adoption, and that those technologies eventually found their way into the mainstream. For example, I got my first email account around 1991 through my employer. Like most people, I had email at work before I had it at home.
That's not the way it works today. Consumers are ahead of businesses in adopting technologies. As a result, you can expect future employees to bring their own technologies to work, along with an expectation that they may use those technologies on the job. We've already seen this phenomenon with instant messaging and Skype (for voice over IP), and even Excel add-ins.
Traditionally, IT has shunned this notion, the prevailing wisdom being (once again) that such actions fly in the face of standardisation, security and other good things that IT tends to value. Going forward, people will view employers that try to lock down and lock out consumer-driven technologies as undesirable and stodgy.
As the lines between business and personal technologies continue to blur, employees will expect to smoothly integrate these aspects of their lives. That means that employers of choice will allow, enable and even encourage such a blending. At a recent gathering of CIOs, one woman remarked that most of us learned about technology on the job. Not so for the generation of workers now entering the workforce.
The continued spread of telework and globalisation. One of the main by-products of the "consumerisation" of technology is a truly global workforce and a truly global consumer base. When you combine technology personalization with the trend toward telework and globalisation, you can envision a workforce that chooses how and where it works and a customer base that is equally diverse.
And don't assume that this workforce or customer base will reflect the traditional domestic demographic. Increasingly, the people who work for us and buy our products and services will be an amalgam of individuals from around the world. So the expectation that employees will be working in the same locations as their co-workers -- or even on the same continent -- is becoming less feasible. Similarly, the idea that customers will be geographically centralised is already obsolete.
Some CIOs and executives will undoubtedly balk at some of these ideas, insisting that personal technology will never penetrate the corporate walls. I heartily disagree.
Barbara Gomolski, a former Computerworld reporter, is a vice president at Gartner, where she focuses on IT financial management. Contact her at [email protected].