Embrace Consumerization of IT and Stop Saying No

At CITE Forum, Noah Broadwater, CTO of Sesame Workshop, explains how his IT organization learned to stop being gatekeepers and instead be partners and advocates for the business.

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Thu, October 11, 2012

CIO — One of the most important things you can do when dealing with the consumerization of IT in the enterprise is to train your staff to stop saying "no." Instead, IT professionals must seek to understand the problem the user has and seek a solution. That's the advice of Noah Broadwater, CTO of Sesame Workshop, the producer of Sesame Street.

"There's chaos everywhere in IT these days, especially with what consumers are doing" he says. "You can keep your head in the sand all you want, but it's happening."

Speaking at CITE Forum in New York City on Wednesday, Broadwater explains that Sesame Workshop successfully transitioned from struggling against the consumerization of IT in the enterprise to embracing it and leveraging it to make employees happier and more productive.

"Today, business users are very savvy," he says. "They know what they want and what they need. They expect technology to be easy and intuitive, as simple as what they see on their iPad or iPhone. But what they don't understand is that it isn't easy for IT to make that shift."

Difficult or not, it's a trend that is impossible to reverse, says Ted Schadler, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, who also spoke at CITE Forum.

[Related: CIO's Digital Spotlight on BYOD]

"Consumerization of technology is an inevitability," he says. "It's an inevitability because of SaaS, because of broadband in the home and because every single technology vendor in the world targets individuals now. People harness technology not because they want to but because they have to."

Schadler notes that when Forrester asked employees why they bring personal devices or applications to work, 56 percent said it was something they needed and the company did not provide an alternative.

"If this doesn't shock you, it should," Schadler says. "We're going to lose; we are losing. They're going to go around us."

Saying 'No' Leads to Shadow IT

In other words, if the IT organization responds by saying "no," users will turn to shadow IT to get what they want. And that's not limited to bring-your-own-device (BYOD): Rogue employees will find a way to get their work done whether they require an unsanctioned device, application or a service like Dropbox.

[Related: BlackBerry CIO on Mobile Security, BYOD and the Modern CIO Role]

For instance, Broadwater says, an employee might decide he needs the full Adobe Creative Suite, and if IT doesn't provide it, the employee might purchase it at the full retail price and expense it to the company—a problematic outcome for any enterprise but especially tricky for a nonprofit like Sesame Workshop.

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