We are in the midst of a perfect storm of technological change. The user experience has been transformed for the first time since the graphical user interface was introduced more than 20 years ago. Now it’s all about the touchscreen interface.
IT delivery is changing, too, and is happening increasingly via browsers and mobile apps. The rapid growth in tablet computing means there is no doubt that the tablet will eclipse the PC by 2015, if not sooner. And we’re seeing most CIOs taking mobility from somewhere in their top 10 to their number one most pressing issue, as executives and the rest of the business demand service delivery on these devices.
When user experience and IT delivery change together, then the ways we design and deliver IT must change, too. For example, if your IT isn’t extremely easy to use, or requires training to be able to engage with it, then you’re in big trouble.
Yet the real issue we’re facing is not with mobile devices, but mobile data. App stores are creating a new conduit for users that is disintermediating corporate IT. This is probably one of the most disruptive threats: users get access to an unlimited number of tools in seconds, use them for work and then discard them (and the information they contain) when they’re no longer needed. It’s hard for traditional IT to compete with that speed of delivery and keep track of how those apps are being propagated outwards.
But smart mobile is about much more than just devices. Today’s models are bristling with functions such as microphones, video, GPS, gyroscopes and accelerometers, which are enabling some very interesting business applications. So smart mobile is also a way to revolutionize how we do things in our companies. At many organizations, however, there’s still this attitude: “We didn’t invent these technologies. They’re being imposed upon us from outside. They’re not designed by us, for us. This isn’t how we do IT.”
But technologies are now being designed elsewhere for consumers and then brought into the enterprise — and that’s how we need to do IT from now on.
For example, the CIO of a large US media company realized he had a major challenge with consumerization. Employees were going out, getting their own IT, doing their own outsourcing and implementing their own “bring your own device” policies.
He said to them, “Look, I want to be a solution provider. I understand our organization and our architecture best, and I understand you users better than anyone on the outside. So I want you to let me bid on everything you need in terms of IT, but I also want you to go out and see if you can find anyone that can provide it better. If you do, and I can’t match them, then I’ll work with that service provider and make it work for you.”
What we see here is an IT leader placing himself directly in competition with the whole world — a trend that is happening anyway — and making an opportunity out of it. Like him, every CIO has to look at how to stay relevant and avoid being completely disintermediated from the service delivery process.
It’s a challenging time for IT leaders, but it’s also a time filled with opportunity. They can do more than they ever could before, but they’ve got to move forward and respond differently. It’s time they disrupted themselves before the world does it for them.