I have an iPad. Most of my friends and coworkers do too. So why should I care about the failure of Microsoft’s Surface? If I was an IT admin, I’d probably even be happy that I don’t have to figure out how to support yet another new platform in my organization. But what if Surface had been a dizzying success? I could have had people swarming the office, asking to be connected to the network and how to configure the email client. And I wouldn’t have a clue how to help them.
It’s a thin line to walk when guessing which hyped-up product will make it in the mass market and which fad will fizzle out.
As enterprise consumerization forces IT to support new technologies in the workplace, the question arises; should CIO’s spend time and resources preparing ahead of time for a coming technological boom?
BYOD is one of the most evident trends that sparks this question. In March this year, Intel released results from a survey done with IT managers at a number of large and mid- sized companies. 82% of the surveyed companies allow at least some, if not all, of their workers to use their own devices. Furthermore, in 2012 Cisco reported that IT leaders on average expect the number of BYOD devices to rise from 2.3 per employee in 2012 to 2.8 in 2014. Combine this with today’s fragmented mobile market that presents various operating systems, applications and devices, and you have an IT departments facing the serious challenge of staying on top of it all.
Do you lean in or lean back?
Dealing with all these changes generally takes one of two forms, a reactive and a proactive approach. With the resource and budget constraints of IT, it’s unrealistic and impractical to adopt and implement every new technology that comes along. On the other hand, it’s not worth missing out on serious competitive edge because you were unsure iOS would catch on.
The reactive route has organizations sitting back and skeptically watching hundreds of technologies and trends come and go before they begin to set up support infrastructure. Though this saves many resources that would have been spent on flailing innovations, it can also lead to the afore
mentioned scenario. Dealing with a sudden onslaught of new platforms is more than a service inconvenience, it can affect the business itself.
The rise of BYOD had many organizations confronting this issue. While IT administrators initially fought the trend, they were eventually powerless to stop it. Instead of preparing to support a variety of different devices and platforms, they clung on to the old procedures in which they were the deciding factor. Unfortunately this meant that when the time came, instead of reaping the potential benefits, IT was left scrambling to solve everything from the security issues to legal problems that quickly arose.
The opposite approach is to be proactive. This is the early adaptor approach taken by organizations that like to look forward. They try to identify the next technology that will give them a competitive edge and are consistently dedicating resources to the search. If something looks like it has potential, further funds will be spent on setting up an infrastructure.
Unfortunately, organizations that jump on every new tech venture, are often let down by short-lived trends. When the Microsoft tablet PC Surface was about to come out, there was a lot of hype that it was going to be the Next Big Thing. This prediction never came to fruition. In fact, according to Bloomberg, as of March 2013 Microsoft had sold only 1.5 million Surface tablets. This has left a lot of proactive companies with a wasted foundation for a product that hasn’t really taken off.
Insurance for productivity?
There is no insurance for productivity. We are often surprised by which technologies become widely adopted. On the one hand, they offer real opportunities for an increase in productivity and an advantage over the competition. On the other, there’s a high risk of failed investments. So which way do you go?
At the end of the day it depends on who you are, your company’s technological culture, and the power of IT within the organization. It’s always important to remain open-minded about new technology, while taking into account its cost/benefit. Personally I lean toward being an early adapter. I believe that the advantages of a competitive edge far outweigh the costs of resources you might lose in the process to reach it.
What do you think? Leave your comment below.