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Maybe it’s time for Enterprise IT to learn a lesson from the Consumer space.

In a previous post, we argued that a backlash is brewing in the enterprise because the consumer App Store model just won’t work in many businesses.  Consider this the other side of that story…

Enterprise IT has long held the notion that the data they sequester behind corporate firewalls, tokens, and cumbersome multi-factor authentication is so valuable that draconian measures are justified when allowing access to the data by the business users.  Business uses regularly tell me that they are tired of IT and its weary “no soup for you!” approach.  These business folks are not interested in all the reasons why their reasonable requests for data access are “difficult” or “impossible,” they simply want to use the data stored in corporate systems to help them make timely, fact-based decisions which ultimately serves their company more effectively.

These business users can’t understand why they easily have secure access to their personal digital media from anywhere in the world (and on any device they wish) and yet have almost no access to corporate data once they leave the confines of their cubicle and its wired-in desktop.  It reminds me of the early factory-worker days when time clocks and micromanagement ruled the day; where being seen sitting at your desk like Bob Cratchit was more important than getting something accomplished.  Those days are long gone but certain Ebenezer Scrooge attitudes linger in IT to this day.

The workplace has been increasingly democratized as information began to flow more freely between peers as well as up and down the management hierarchy and the supply chain.  Today’s workers are expected to analyze situations and make intelligent choices about solving problems on a daily basis.  Workers at all levels now routinely use information about their company, its operations, strengths and weaknesses to more cleverly deliver results to feed the maw of analysts and the quarterly earnings-driven world of Wall Street.  These workers NEED this corporate information to do their jobs, yet they are rarely sitting at their desk pondering their flat screen. They are offsite at planning sessions, or they are traveling to another site, or they are on call on a weekend. Regardless of what took them away from their desk, every hoop we make business users jump through means less time actually devoted to problem-solving!

The tail has been wagging the dog for long enough.  It is time for Enterprise to IT take advantage of the advances in consumer-facing security and data delivery to help business users accomplish their work faster and with better information at their fingertips.  In fact, they may not have a choice in the very near future since many of our large customers have stopped issuing company-provided smartphones and started adopting a corporate policy of “Bring-your-own-device (BYOD).”  Essentially companies are lowering operating costs by shifting the burden of accounting for corporate use of smartphones to the employees and using a reimbursement model to repay employees for business use of their personal devices.  Some people have even speculated that the primary reason for BYOD is to break the stranglehold that IT has on corporate data.  This has significant implications for Enterprise IT:

  • First: Clinging to the idea of a “corporate standard” smartphone has always been a fantasy since new devices ship every week and management has always done whatever they want regardless of the approved model list.  Now, this fantasy is completely destroyed by opening the choices to literally hundreds of devices and having the device selected primarily for its consumer-oriented features.  While Blackberries once ruled the enterprise, they are now but one choice in a tidal wave of new, feature-rich smartphones.
  • Second: Demand for access to corporate data will increase exponentially as the smart devices become pervasive in the enterprise.  A quick look at the IT news will tell you that mobile BI, mobile operations monitoring, mobile alerts and mobile analytics have all become hot topics.  Once a status symbol of the executive management team, accessing real-time corporate data will become commonplace among the rank and file, using their web-enabled smartphones pointed at corporate servers.
  • Third: Forget about “web-enabling” existing applications.  This slippery slope has been tried for years with only large, unfinished projects to show for it.  Business users have never wanted their desktops on their smartphones, they simply want access to the data.  Smart IT organizations will realize this and find ways to “repurpose” corporate DATA (not applications) in a safe, secure, timely and scalable manner.  It won’t take them long to feel the “app backlash” we wrote about earlier this year, and quickly turn to web apps to solve their immediate and future problems in a proven way.

This “consumerization” of the business will happen whether Enterprise IT is ready or not, so smart organizations are gearing up for this.  They are focusing their IT gurus on delivering secure web access to any portable device, on demand and driven by business needs, not corporate paranoia.