Gartner loosens up
I believe that consumerization will have a big impact on the enterprise, I for one gave up on the idea that my company would meet all my IT needs long ago, and regularly make personal investments. In general I consider my personal tools to greatly enhance my productivity, way beyond the level that my company makes possible. That said I don’t think it’s possible to take a top down approach to personal productivity and knowledge management as I know for certain by observing many highly productive people that there are many different approaches that suit different personalities.
The best companies will figure out how to blend top down enabablement with bottom up productivity and innovation. It’s great to see Gartner recognising this at last, in the past Gartner’s TCO model for PC’s has promoted the idea of “stop users fiddling with their desktop” now they seem to recognise that at least for some users that fiddling was actually productivity tuning and process innovation! Here is an encouraging quote from Jeffery Mann, a research VP at Gartner:
When I talk with customers about how to achieve a high-performance workplace (HPW), one of the hardest things for them to deal with is the need to loosen up on some control issues, and how to do that without losing control completely. This is natural. For the past several years, CEOs and CFOs have been asking CIOs to reduce costs, reduce risk, ensure compliance and generally take tighter control of users. This has resulted in locked-down desktops, strict TCO and ROI procedures, and tight IT procedures all around. The result is that IT has collectively become “The Abominable No Man”’ in many organizations, better at refusing or blocking any initiative than facilitating it.
We cannot stay on this trajectory. The complexity of the business and IT environments is too overwhelming to pursue the myth of total control. There are too many variables and influences to permit anyone to control all inputs. Even if we could, that would be a bad thing. Real innovation is coming from unexpected and not totally understood areas, such as Web 2.0 and consumer-oriented collaboration facilities. To block access to these is counterproductive and, ultimately, futile. Increasingly, many users see access restrictions as similar to network faults: a minor irritation to route around.
Of course it’s not about no control. In my view it’s about IT progressively withdrawing to managing only those things that are business critical and enabling security and connectivity services, and even then considering whether they need to manage applications and data or whether they can get away with just controlling a standard web service, RSS feed, or email feed. In Gartner’s words:
Does this mean we should throw open the doors to every virus-laden, spyware-filled download we can find? Or post sensitive information on any blog site we care to? Of course not. Loosening control does not mean giving up all control. It could mean enabling four or five different products in a particular technology area instead of just one (but not any). Innovative IT managers are experimenting with virtualization to shield experimental trials from sensitive corporate processes. In some cases, it will mean trusting employees to do the right thing, something businesses are accustomed to doing in other areas (like contract negotiations or travel expenses), but not done often enough within IT policies.
I like the idea that Jeff presents here of providing a choice of applications, as this fits very well with my opening point about the different ways that people like to work. As we see more applications that can interact with standard web services like RSS in a predictable way we will be able to move in this more flexible direction.