The Mobile Enterprise: Killing IT's Sacred Cows

CIOs need to break with tradition or risk having IT get outsourced, say modern IT managers. But how do they gain an edge? Don't be a slave to ROI, work with startups, and bring iPads and mobile apps into the enterprise.

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Thu, January 19, 2012

CIO — It's shortly before 6 a.m. on a Saturday in Las Vegas. High-rollers and party-goers are sleeping off last night's thrill ride. Bright neon lights grow dim in the cold morning light. But an excited crowd is stirring at The Cosmopolitan.

Some 3,000 audiologists and hearing experts have come to Las Vegas to attend Starkey Laboratories Hearing Innovation Expo at The Cosmopolitan. What's got them anxiously waiting for doors to open, while the rest of the world shakes off a nasty hangover?

This morning's session: iPad apps of the future.

"There was an unanticipated quest for information on innovation and technical excellence," says Rob Duchscher, senior vice president of information technology at Starkey, the largest manufacturer of hearing devices in the United States.

Starkey's expo earlier this month trotted out a star-studded cast of speakers and entertainers, such as Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson and country band Rascal Flatts, not to mention an assortment of breakthrough hearing technologies. The iPad though, may have trumped them all.

Only two years ago, Starkey began buying up iPads and spinning out apps for salespeople, executives, customers, audiologists and patients of its hearing aids, ear-molds and other hearing-related products. Like the crowd gathering in the wee morning hours, CIOs wanting to adopt cutting-edge iPads and mobile apps must break from tradition and look excitedly toward the future.

In other words, CIOs must slay IT's sacred cows.

Sacred Cow: Not Approved

Before the iPad made its way to Starkey, Duchscher had become all-too-familiar with the IT department's veto power. He had spent 11 years in research and development, eventually heading up the project management office. His mission was to be at the edge of technology, which often clashed with the conservative views of IT.

On one occasion, Duchscher wanted to develop software for then-rising Windows 7. But IT told him no, and so he found workarounds to such rigid orders. "I had grown tired of having to argue with our IT department, of having years of roadblocks thrown up at me," he says.

It's not a stretch to say that many IT departments have a similar reputation, which only encourages rogue workarounds. CIOs need to respond positively to new technology ideas so that people will continue calling them for tech advice.

"If you keep saying, 'no way,' they'll stop calling you," Paul Lanzi, mobile application team manager at bio-tech company Genentech, an adopter of iPads and iPhones, told CIO.com.

Two years ago, Duchscher was promoted to senior vice president of IT.

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