There are many reasons to hate Christmas; the endless adverts for CDs, DVDs and books since late October, every shop is playing Christmas carols or “I wish it was Christmas” by Slade, the Company Christmas Party which Jeremy Clarkson recently described as “It is the damp log in the fire, the mould on the smoked salmon, the advertisement in the Queen’s speech”.
No, for the CIO there is something far, far worse.
The collected sales and marketing departments of the consumer electronics companies around the world are driving up the consumer anticipation to fever pitch for their latest technical wizardry. Promises that it will change the world, save more time than ever, make you more attractive to the opposite sex… and have unparalleled battery life.
So what is the issue? These are consumer devices targeting consumers.
Sadly the line between consumer and business was finally swept away by Apple. Apple have managed to penetrate the business by providing devices that are the electronic equivalent to jewellery which consumers have bought with their own money and have taken to work with them. Once inside the building, these consumers cleverly turn into business people and demand that the IT department make their Apple iThingy connect to the corporate network.
Now, please don’t think that I am an Apple bigot. I own multiple Apple devices, love their engineering (hardware and software) and applaud their marketing flair. But the IT Departments of most corporations in the Western world have designed their desktop strategy around Windows and developed support desk skills sets to support PCs, not Apple Mac, iPad and iPhone.
Now if it were just a Windows/ Apple duopoly it would be manageable. But it is not. There are a slew of new smartphones being launched running at least 4 different operating systems, each with their own proprietary approach for connectivity for email and browsing. Then a “bottle” (if that is the collective term) of tablets are being launched with differing screen sizes (7”, 8.9”, 10” and 11.9”) again running a mix of operating systems. And finally there are new laptops, netbooks and Macbooks. Sorry, I forgot the Kindle and book readers that will read PDFs. Oh and now there are wearable devices which make up the “internet of things”.
These devices will be arriving in pockets, briefcases and on wrists on Monday 30th December. They’d be in earlier but most will be taking the Friday off to play with their new gizmos. Every one of them is wifi enabled, has a browser and some email software. Everyone is a potential support nightmare and security breach waiting to happen.
The hardware manufacturers are desperate to differentiate so they are looking to their software UI provide that killer edge. You thought Facebook was a “time-suck” for your support guys. That will be nothing compared with trying to figure out how to make each device authenticate on the network, sync emails or hit the web. Each will inevitably be different. Not different by operating system. Not different by manufacturer. But every device will be different.
So what is your response as CIO?
The simple answer is “No. I gave you a perfectly serviceable PC running Windows, and a smart phone. Use it.”
Most IT departments have a pretty rocky relationship with their business colleagues. This approach is likely to drive the rift even deeper at a time when a closer relationship is going to be even more critical to address a far large challenge to the business – the Stealth Cloud
But a blanket “Yes” is likely to open the floodgates and with it the corporate IT strategy will be flushed away forever.
The good news is that this is a disaster that you know is going to happen. You even know when it is going to happen, and where. So you can plan. You have time. Whether you have the resource is not the question. Every hour spent now could save you 10 after 29th Dec
So here are a set of actions:
Firstly, what is your policy on mobile devices and the cloud? It is written down anywhere? Can you take a copy of another company and modify it rather than start for scratch? My suggestion it needs to cover at a minimum which devices are supported, who pays for the device and associated data packages, use of the device, data security, how and what applications can be loaded, what support is available (eg only sync, email, browser but no other apps). What are the commercial and technical risks as these will determine the policies. But beware of being too draconian and using Can the policy be defended as being reasonable and will you have support from line of business and HR execs.
Next, what is the process that someone has to follow to get their device validated and connected? How much of this can be made self service reducing your support load, with links to FAQ, policy and good 3rd party support websites. Hint: map this process out with ALL the stakeholders before you start building websites or applications. Hey – maybe this is a chance to show how responsive you are and a chance to try out some cloud based approach. Building the site/app could be the perfect Xmas project for a bright graduate or an intern. Perhaps, you could record some short YouTube-stlye help videos to augment the site.
How are you going to get up to speed on the technical side? What skills do you need? The first step (Policy) and the second (Process) will determine skills required and what is available.
Finally, can you estimate the demand now both in terms of resourcing but also on the infrastructure? With a slew of new wifi enabled devices connected what will this do to your network. Does this change the policies or approach you advocate user follow? You can only guess.
Perhaps having the team attend the Company Christmas Party might be a good idea. At least you can start to find out what people are expecting to get for Xmas and with a glass of fizz in their hand they are more likely to tell you. Just don’t start the conversation with “I’m from IT and I’m here to help”. They are more likely to believe that Father Christmas exists than that.