Consumer Uprisings in the Workplace

Posted on: November 13, 2012 by James McMahon

For many of us living in democracy means being able to do what we like, when we like and where we like, within reason. There are rules to follow for the wellbeing of ourselves, our possessions and others and, as an adult in society, we are expected to follow these rules, whether we agree with them or not and of course failure to follow rules can have repercussions. After a heated discussion with my far more intelligent younger brother about some of my previous blogs and how the topics can relate to the political challenges in Europe, it became clear to me that there are many parallels between society today and IT management. The pressure faced by today’s CIO currently are revolutionary by nature, the diverse needs of users, the high pace of change and the current economic situation, all challenge key aspects of conventional IT management wisdom.

Within many organizations today, CIO’s, IT managers and Service Providers would admit they face growing unrest from the user population. This is the ‘Consumer Uprising’, where the Consumerization of IT and the use of services, technologies and ways of doing things that has grown and proliferated in our private lives is now wanted in our working life. The consumer uprising is coming and introducing new challenges. So what can be learnt from our everyday life, outside of IT and how can this be applied to how IT management can evolve to deal with the ever changing demands of the population?

Let’s start with control and who controls a democracy? Obviously there is a government and a political party in power, but they are elected by the people. The ability to vote on topics that are important and influence the decision making process is key, along with freedom of speech. Whilst voting for your next CIO might not be realistic, in the IT republic, the people should be consulted on policy and given the choice to vote or be interviewed on key decisions and policies, to ensure their needs are met by the IT strategy.

Next, how a democratic IT republic is funded is also important. Everyone hates to pay tax, but it’s a necessary evil, paying for core services, essential in any society or business. Traditionally everything is paid for and consequently delivered (like education for example). This is changing in society (for good and bad). The privatization of services means we pay multiple providers for core services, similar to multi-sourcing in the IT world. Some people will choose to use the default services, other will choose to select their own and only use the minimal infrastructure. This is similar for IT. Some will take the full service and be happy enough with it, others want to make their own choice but still need access and the ability to use core applications and communicate with others. Individuals or business units expect good value and to only pay for what they consume.

Next up is the security of the republic. Security policies (or laws) are essential and will continue to be so in the democracy. Consumerization focuses the attention to delivering effective security measures that protect what is really important and in a way that is least intrusive to users. Police on every corner and high walls is not the way to achieve this. Multiple security levels, with secure areas, open public areas, and different classifications are essential in this brave new world. How security breaches are handled is as important as how they are created, users could be warned or put into quarantine (and/or fined), access may be revoked or blocked and data wiped if devices are stolen

Identity is of course tightly linked to security and is an area of high scrutiny in the new republic. Migration and border control are hot topics and never fail to spark debate. Authenticating who you are with your digital passport is critical. As the boundaries between companies fade, with more collaboration than ever (community clouds drive this concept further), the emergence of a union of companies, akin to Europe will emerge. People will freely work, travel and communicate between companies, some on a regular basis, others longer term, so digital visa’s, passports and border control are essential in the future.

A further linked topic is migration, the flow of people from one organization to another, or further out from one platform to another, as an extension of BYOD would be to choose your own applications, introducing integration complexities of the highest order.

What about support? How do you get answers to a question? There are numerous ways; friends, family, Google, public department… You choose how you find your answers and this is the same in the future IT republic. Surfing the crowd on social networks to source your answer might be one way or you by be an expert who gets kicks from helping people, benefitting from gaining a positive reputation or discount points as part of the ‘gamification’ of support within the common enterprise social network.

Next we move on to the topic of religion and in an IT context, this tends to be the dedication to products from the mighty IT Gods of Apple, Microsoft and also Open Source. In a democracy, all of these should be treated equally and be able to integrate on a daily basis.

Finally fashion and culture have a major impact on societies. No two countries are the same with different trends and behaviors common, and no two people are the same. This also applies to the IT world. Some choose to spend money on clothes whilst others spend it on cars. Others choose holidays or simply to save. In the democratic world of IT the pressures of fashion are the same; do you select an Mac Book or take the corporate standard PC? What will my customer or peers think of me if I don’t have a tablet? Avoiding bias and allowing choice in a controlled way is the secret to success.

As the way we work changes the parallels between the way society and IT are managed can be clearly drawn out. This will have an impact on the future personnel and management culture of the IT department. Consumerisation is one of a number of key trends driving a change in thought process throughout the IT industry at present and it is vital that CIO’s build a business plan (or manifesto) that takes into full consideration the future needs of the user. Think about each aspect of your infrastructure and ensure there is a future plan, whether that is a BYOD scheme or a change to you corporate network or security strategy. Is there the right level of consultation with the users and the business? Are your users trusted and empowered? Do the existing IT services enable business growth?

Users expect more than ever and just good service is no longer good enough. The level of expectation is rising as a result of the pressures introduced by the consumer uprisings. If there is the right mix of leaders in the IT organization and the answer to the questions above is yes, then the satisfaction of the end user and productivity of the business will increase, ultimately recognized in improved net promoter score for the CIO.

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About James McMahon
VP, Head of Atos Digital Workplace and member of the Scientific Community
James is Head of the Atos Digital Workplace Practice boasting 10+ years’ experience of IT product management, strategy and solution architecture, targeted at enterprise customers. James is excited by developing and delivering transformational service offerings for enterprise customers, improving productivity, user experience and enabling new ways of working through cost effective services, including cloud, mobility, application & desktop virtualization, workplace as a service and BYOD solutions. Regularly meeting and working with customers (up to and including CxO level) is a key part of his role. He’s also a blogger on the Atos Ascent blog and member of the Atos Scientific Community for 5 years.

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