Over the last several years, we have seen increasing indications that IT is becoming redundant. The bring your own device (BYOD) trend has employees taking their own hardware, often with its own software and services, to the office.
We've also seen a massive upswing in the use of online services from firms such as Amazon and Google. Corporate credit cards in hand, employees are purchasing products in a way that bypasses company policy, or ignores it altogether, yet eventually made part of IT's budget.
Add to that outsourced IT services such as Microsoft Azure—which work well when it goes directly to employees—and it does start to look like much of IT is becoming less of a service and more of an anachronism that stands in the way of line employees doing their job.
Commentary: In a BYOD World, Is IT Redundant?
This trend is similar to what happened in the 1980s, when consumer focused technology advanced far more quickly than management information systems. Back then, employees got their managers to buy PCs and pretty much made MIS obsolete. It took more than a decade, but that's because PCs were expensive and networking was a joke. Today smartphones, tablets and even PCs are cheap, a child can connect to a network and bypassing IT often doesn't even require a manager's approval since the expense it is so low.
The ideal defensive move for IT departments is to treat consumer technology as the competition that it is and step up to the challenge. It isn't that IT can't win the battle by providing more reliable and more secure services; it's that often IT isn't even in the fight.
However, BMC Software's recent MyIT initiative is designed to address this problem directly by providing a personal UI that's tailored to a user's role and is accessible on mobile devices as well as the traditional desktop. I bet other vendors will follow BMC once they realize that they'll be out of business because they're built to sell to users and can't give IT departments the tools they need.
How MyIT Reengages the End User
In the 1980s, MIS was like a priesthood and the users were the parishioners who, denied access to the holy books, had to rely on MIS to get the services they needed. Users didn't have much choice; it often seemed that you needed to sacrifice a chicken and do a silly dance before you'd get something that barely resembled what you asked for (and it was late to boot). Then the PC entered the scene like a blazing light of truth that freed us from the oppressive MIS presence. We were suddenly able to do our jobs. (I worked at IBM at the time and was one of the folks driving the internal revolt, which ended with us basically firing MIS).
Even back then, users (myself included) didn't want to become MIS, although that's what happened. We just wanted to be able to personally craft our solutions and found it easier to learn the necessary PC skills with Lotus 1-2-3, DisplayWrite and Condor (one of many database programs) than to get MIS to do what we wanted.
While today's IT systems are far more agile, they also require unique skills and don't give users the control they want and need. That said, the services the users buy outside the purview of IT are almost identical; developers simply wrapped these services and applications around mush more user-friendly interfaces.
That's exactly what MyIT is: a user-friendly wrapper for IT services. With it, users are more likely to use an internal service and work within the IT framework and less likely to use an external service and bypass IT. In effect, MyIT may be the best weapon to assure that IT remains relevant and current.
MyIT Shows Power of Customer Satisfaction
The problem that MyIT addresses, if properly implemented, is one of customer satisfaction. Part of the deployment process for this tool, or any like it, should be a way to monitor that satisfaction. That way, the tool can be updated and modified to address the internal customer needs—and to ensure that IT isn't again caught on the wrong side of a trend.
The real benefit of MyIT may be improved employee morale both inside and outside IT. When you know your customers—you know what they want and you know you are delivering what they want—both you and your customers are far happier.
Most IT vendors should have a MyIT-type offering. The ones that don't will likely wonder where their customers went.
Rob Enderle is president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group. Previously, he was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group. Prior to that he worked for IBM and held positions in Internal Audit, Competitive Analysis, Marketing, Finance and Security. Currently, Enderle writes on emerging technology, security and Linux for a variety of publications and appears on national news TV shows that include CNBC, FOX, Bloomberg and NPR.