Today, I read this (Dutch) article. What triggered me, is that IT used to be on the front lines of development.
As a child of the 80’s – 90’s, I remember that we had our first computer, a Commodore 64. We (my parents) were one of the first with a computer and we were so proud of it. Later, I slowed my development on this point. After all, I had to go to school, go to work. I saw people who had their own computer, while I was working on the computer at school or work, and I envied them. I still remember buying my own computer, it cost a staggering Fl. 5,000.00 (five thousand Dutch guilders, fortunately largely financed through the pc-private project at work) and of course, I had to find out what it could do. Installing strange software (and viruses, but hey, I did something with it). Replacing a video card, a motherboard, chipsets… I could do it mostly myself, with help from friends, usually by telephone.
When the years passed by, the IT departments became more and more rigid. Everything had to be accounted for. Of course, the security issues were great. Windows wasn’t that secure, so everything had to be monitored. Linux users formed unfriendly communities. Consumers learned how to work with computers and their software. And there were always those who read some magazine or another and considered themselves specialists… So the real specialists were busy repairing the screwed computers. But still, it was fun. Computers became cheaper, communities changed, Windows got more secure, Apple started growing as a company. Those who were on the front lines, had a computer. And – of course – the companies, who relied more and more on digitalisation.
With the personal computers, laptops and other mobile devices started to work their way into the homes of ordinary people, the new “specialists” started to rise. Those who had a bit of knowledge of everything mainstream. Also, managers wanted a cell phone, and the popularity of RIM (Blackberry) was born. Not in the least because they could read their emails on the phone. With Apple re-inventing the mobile device, the BYOD culture started to rise quickly. This culture was adopted by some (CYO; Choose Your Own), rejected by others (“No, we do not support other devices than those we provided”).
Strange, because working at home is not new. I think we all have heard about stolen laptops or missing USB sticks with confidential files. Files, someone took home to work on it. With secure solutions in controlled environments, e.g. by using Citrix to connect with the company network with all the solutions on that company network, there will be no need anymore for file saving on devices or storage media. Expensive? To buy it, certainly. But it can save a lot of hidden costs afterwards, and it can prevent that confidential information is missing due to theft or forgetfulness.
By saying “No” continuously, modern workers are more or less forced to bring their own. Offices are still not designed for mobile working, usually fixed pc’s instead of docking stations for (provided and approved) laptops. Sometimes, employees find out themselves how to connect their own device to the company network. With this, security is not guaranteed, but hey, they are able to work at home. To check the email, to prepair for meetings, to create a new document they need by tomorrow morning. And of course, with bringing their own device, they also bring their own knowledge and network and integrate these within the company. To the profit of both parties.
On the other hand, the IT department is regulated more and more, and so are the services. The security policy usually did or still does not support BYO. The general IT policy is as rigid as a 10,000 year old glacier. Even when this era requires flexibility like a free flowing river.
IT departments were established to provide service to the customers. Throughout the years, these departments have grown to companies on their own. The specialism appearantly caused a change in the way they considered themselves. Instead of remaining a service provider, they started to think of themselves as one of the core businesses of the company. The IT departments are – except for the helpdesks – quite hidden somewhere in or even outside the company building. To get in touch with them is usually quite hard and requires a “service ticket” for even the simpliest question. They are invisible and waiting for the user to file a service ticket when problems occur, instead of proactively investigating what the users want or need.
Today, users have to comply to the IT department instead of the other way around.
The (IT) managers keep saying “No”, even if the time is right to say “Yes”. “Yes, we know what is going on outside our world”, “Yes, we are checking solutions”, “Yes, we will give some extra support”, “Yes, we will review our SLA to provide the best possible service”. I am not saying that it will be easy, or that everyone should be able to do it. On the contrary, a proper IT network should be the job of a team of specialists. But – as everywhere – specialists are only as valuable as the service they provide. Do not only follow the news, but investigate. Check what the people in your organisation are doing. Notice trends and try to be ahead of it, so you are well-informed before your customers or users will surprise you with requests. BYO and CYO are not leaving. Better to live with it instead of fighting it.
As for service providing and reducing costs: check out the Deming Cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act).
Don’t rely on words like “LEAN” by just using them, but live the complete – longterm – cycle. Invest in today, so you can profit tomorrow (the best known example is Toyota, and I am positive that there are other companies living a similar way of working).
Don’t look for problems. Solve them.