In IT, the easiest way to answer nearly any question is to say, 'no'. A 'no', after all, is a way to maintain the status quo — a way to keep the system running in the same way it always has. For many IT departments, this answer is used to fight against the device management nightmare that is called 'bring your own device' (BYOD).
BYOD, after all, disturbs the fragile balance that was only recently reestablished after the mobilisation of BlackBerry first shook the system. This 'no' is a way of fighting the shadow IT that is springing up in approximately 83 per cent of businesses around the globe.
But many companies still fail to realise that the status quo is already a relic of a bygone age. Mobile is a reality. Employees are using the same devices to call their customers as they are to call their parents, write emails and love letters, watch movies and webinars, capture whiteboard sessions, and photograph a newborn.
The grey area that comes with BYOD is exactly what IT departments fear. But it’s a grey area that drives innovation and productivity. If IT wants to stay relevant, it needs to learn to say 'yes' to BYOD and understand what that actually means.
The term 'shadow IT' has undeniably sinister connotations. It implies that there’s something wrong with employees finding better methods of productivity than what they’re offered. But the end result of BYOD is more like a democracy, brought forth to free the people.
The truth is that whether they’re at work or at home, people want to be free. They want to do a great job, talk to amazing customers, help patients, build amazing products — all in the best way possible. If the 'rules' stand in their way, they’ll find a way around them — or move on to a company that’s more open.
Shadow IT is just the free market at work. If a central organisation tries to define the price, the market will adjust. You see this with currencies, oil, and people finding ways to get the tools they truly need to do their jobs.
We’re at the edge of a new era. For the first time, the people have the power to demand the tools they want — and organisations better comply. It’s not just that smartphones are better; it’s that they’re optimised for the people rather than for the business. Fun, love, work, family — the smartphone is the universal connector. Now, IT needs to figure out how it can be a part of this connection.
Embracing the modern world
Every leader must realise that employees aren’t just resources. You need to reach them physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Here are a few ideas that might help you align your systems and processes to accommodate this new world.
1. Embrace the people
Most existing systems were designed to do work faster or better than people could do the work themselves. But now that this has been achieved, it’s important to step back and embrace the work people actually do.
No one applies for a position to submit expenses, ask for approval, or punch in and out. Employees want to cure diseases, serve customers, and invent great things. The first big step is to focus on people again.
Find out which processes are really necessary, which ones have outgrown their usefulness, and which ones are actively resented. Take a look at what your employees really do and how you can increase their willingness and ability to do that work. The best way to embrace your employees is to eliminate the grunt work that impedes their success.
2. Embrace mobile
The idea of work as a place you go in the morning and come home from at night is evaporating. Work isn’t where you go; it’s what you do. Work can exist in a traditional office, a home office, or even any time your smartphone is in your hand.
Embracing mobile isn’t simply about enabling email on an iPhone; it’s about empowering people to do their jobs anywhere at any time on their schedule. Design mobile from the ground up. Every action that requires a PC or a desk to function will hold back a huge chunk of your workers.
3. Embrace the personal
Life and work aren’t separate entities anymore. A smartphone might look like just another phone to IT, but for many individuals, it’s an extension of who they are. Eventually, devices will do more than define what content people see; they will define how people experience the world around them.
The one-size-fits-all solution is a thing of the past. IT needs to embrace the personal nature of devices if it wants to continue to be a driving part of the conversation in the workplace.
Universal connectivity should be looked at as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Gone are the days when a small group of system owners decided for the masses how things are done. Embracing BYOD will allow you to move forward with your employees instead of struggling against the tide.
Daniel Kraft is the president and CEO of Sitrion