Much, rightfully, is being made of the consumerization of IT. It's an important issue. Virtually all of the conversation, however, focuses on the technical aspects of an employee using his or her own device. The key question: What must be done to secure and manage that employees' smartphones or tablets?
There is another issue, and it has gotten some attention recently. It focuses on how IT staffers deal with a universe of employees who try to upgrade, problem solve and do other things - which is their right since the device belongs to them - that usually are within IT's realm?
This is how Dino Londis at Byte framed the issue:
Because users are more comfortable than ever with technology, they're more likely to attempt to solve their own tech problems before they call IT, especially with their self-provisioned devices. The only time they're likely to call IT is for overly complicated problems.
He went on to use the battery problems with iOS 5 as an example. It's worth a read. The bottom line is that many users bypassed IT and instead used the Internet to troubleshoot a solution. It's an interesting phenomenon, and one that isn't necessarily doomed to fail. IT, to some degree, may be getting out of the business of keeping devices running and moving to higher-level functions. Indeed, this is similar to what happens as an IT employee begins moving up the ranks. At the start, his or her task is to keep devices running. Gradually, a transition to higher-level management tasks occurs. This may be happening for entire departments. Wrote Londis:
This means IT will be less about keeping the lights on and more about involving itself in the business end of the business they're in. Technologists can't remain ignorant of the businesses they support. An applicant who once looked great because she knew multiple programming languages looks better if she comes with a marketing degree.
Silicon Republic reports on a study by Accenture. While the report doesn't directly discuss the role of the IT department, it does so indirectly by suggesting how the use of devices will change. The report suggests that departments should allow more disparate devices and applications, upgrade policies, push consumer technologies and segment "consumer IT needs by role." Each of these changes makes it clear that IT departments will serve a higher-level function as time moves on.
Indeed, InfoWorld has inaugurated a blog about the consumerization trend and, judging by Galen Gruman's first post, the focus will be on how to manage the big picture, not specific techniques. Writes Gruman:
It's not that users will rise up against IT and send the CIO and the rest of the IT department to the guillotine. It's that users were once treated by IT largely as helpless infants to be protected from the bad consequences of using technology on live business information and processes. However, they should currently be viewed as teenagers who need instruction on how to prevent and deal with those consequences. Because if they are confined to their rooms, they'll find ways to sneak out and cause even more damage. In other words, it's time for IT to parent users so that they can be fully functioning adults.
This is an extremely important issue that has to this point flown a bit under the radar. The ability of IT departments to transform techie-type people into personnel capable of tending to the needs of a wide sea of devices and their sensitive owners will be important to watch.