In a BYOD World, Is IT Redundant?

Reports of the death of IT departments in the Bring Your Own Device era have been exaggerated. However, if IT doesn't accept its new role -- one that's focused less on individual user support and more on setting policies -- then it might be time to write the obituary.

By Rob Enderle
Fri, June 01, 2012

CIO — The last time we had a disruptive BYOD event, back when PCs came to market, I was working at IBM. We concluded not only that IT was redundant but that it was time to displace IT with our internal group's own equipment and resources.

Over the last year, the IT events I've attended have increasingly showcased a trend among users to bypass IT departments and go directly to online services like those supplied by Google and Amazon. BMC even created a unique program, called Cloud Boot Camp, which basically serves as a marriage counseling service that helps IT and line executives reconcile so that policies aren't broken and IT isn't made redundant.

The answer to the question posted in the headline may seem like an easy "no" if you are in IT. However, the BYOD sea change and the broad trend to move technology decisions closer to users and into line organizations is making IT services redundant. To avoid getting smaller over the next few years, IT groups will have to adapt.

Widespread BYOD a Sign of User Dissatisfaction

At the core of the BYOD and consumerization trend is dissatisfaction with what IT provides. If the user and line manager thought the services and hardware that IT supplied was adequate, then they obviously wouldn't be motivated to bring their own hardware into the shop.

An auto mechanic bringing his or her own tools into the shop clearly indicates that the shop provides inadequate tools to its employees. Meanwhile, when employees bring in their own furniture, as executives often do, it is a silent vote of no confidence in the services that space planning and facilities provide. Since employees are comfortable providing their own equipment when a corporate service doesn't meet one particular need, it becomes easier for executives to see when other needs aren't being met.

For example, IT is typically bypassed in lieu of cloud services these days largely because getting resources allocated is often a difficult process wrought with paperwork, approvals and other hurdles. To avoid this, users instead go to online services, use their credit card and submit an expense report—all of which bypasses IT until an audit or review catches this behavior and some IT or security executive has a minor coronary.

You may think that simply enabling the device the user brought is addressing the problem—certainly the user-staffed groups put in place to provide Macs with IT support would tend to support this assumption.

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