Yesterday I wrote a post about how companies are contending with issues that may arise if they let employees select their own technologies, most notably how they willl create support programs to accommodate employee choices. I included a slideshow packed with good tips from IT services company Unisys on how to launch an effective bring-your-own technology program.
Also yesterday, my IT Business Edge colleague Loraine Lawson wrote about Unisys' new contract to sell Apple's devices to companies and government agencies. As Loraine writes, while these kinds of deals are old hat for companies like Microsoft and HP, this is the first of its kind for Apple. Capitalizing on corporate interest in its iPhones and iPads, Apple is reportedly recruiting other large systems integrators to help it crack the enterprise market. While Apple has made some halfhearted runs at the enterprise in the past, none of them has gone far. IT shops have adopted its products reluctantly, if at all.
But that was before employees started clamoring for smartphones generally and the slick ones designed by Apple in particular. Companies are realizing they can't hold back the tide of these devices and are beginning to explore their value. Working with a well-known systems integrator like Unisys likely makes IT departments a little more comfortable about figuring out how to add Apple products to their existing infrastructures. And Apple no doubt realizes it needs these kinds of partners to help it gain any real traction in the enterprise. It seems like a sign that employee-influenced technology is a trend with real staying power.
I had a similar reaction back in 2007 when Google announced Capgemini would sell Google Apps. Google has always promoted the simplicity of its Apps as a welcome counterpart to more bloated productivity suites. So, I wondered, if it's so darned simple, why do folks need to pay services providers like Capgemini for support? Author and Rough Type blogger Nicholas Carr also found it a bit ironic. He wrote:
The giant IT consulting firms symbolize the high cost and ornate complexity of traditional IT. You might say that they're part of the problem that the new wave of Web-based services is supposed to solve. It only goes to show: Business, no less than politics, makes strange bedfellows.
The tacit implication of offering employees more technology choices is that internal IT staffs, many of which are already stretched to the limits, will struggle to support all the options. As I noted in yesterday's post on support programs, Unisys says its clients find users often take better care of technology if they pay for it themselves. But it's probably unrealistic to expect employees to deal with all support issues on their own, and it's certainly unrealistic to expect them to ensure their choices will perform well in an enterprise environment. That's why I like an approach Unisys says some of its clients are using: polling their employees about their technology preferences and then using their feedback to offer a "white list" of approved technologies and support options