by Jim Haskin

How consumer technologies are impacting IT

Dec 05, 2017
Consumer ElectronicsTechnology Industry

Leveraging and meeting employee expectations that have been set by consumer technologies.

texting im in the workplace
Credit: Thinkstock

As technology advances and becomes a larger a larger part of our daily lives, so has the line between our work lives and personal lives become more and more blurred. As IT leaders, we need to be cognizant of how technology is a growing part of that blurring, as well as be proactive in thinking about how we enable our users to gain leverage over both their business and personal technology needs.

A decade ago, employees were grateful just to have a standard laptop and a basic phone – now they have model expectations, personal preferences, and difficult-to-comply-to desires. Today, everybody is a technology user (and often an expert) because our consumer lives have trained us for “now” – no provisioning, no training, no implementation timeline, no delivery delays. Why can’t corporate IT be equally as fast, easy to use, and responsive? We must find ways to enable and manage employee expectations that have been set by consumer technologies. When people go to work, they expect technology to operate the same way it does at home: seamlessly, intuitively, and immediately.

Welcome consumer technology in the workplace

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was the first foray into this space, but since that trend began, Smartphones have become ubiquitous – as have tablets – and now smartwatches and other wearable tech are connected to our corporate networks. We have got to be out in front of these devices and see them as opportunities not threats. Personal tech has many enterprise benefits: cost savings, employee satisfaction, greater productivity. But as attractive as these benefits are, security issues still loom large. Many organizations have come to terms with BYOD and have implemented policies and procedures to protect confidential business data and minimize security concerns. However, new wearables and IoT-connected devices that we can’t even fathom will soon enter the workplace so that means that IT must stay ahead of what technologies employees will be asking to bring to work.

Advanced communication options

I touched on this topic a bit in my last post on encouraging and enabling collaboration in modern workplace but employees want to use the same types of apps and channels at work that they use for personal communication. How can IT stay on top of looking after messaging apps, Twitter, Slack, SMS, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Facebook@work? How can we enable our employees while at the same time safeguard data and minimizing parallel and duplicate communications? We have to embrace the technologies, experiment, and then choose winners in the workplace that can accommodate user needs and protect our data while maximizing productivity. At my company, Slack has taken off within certain groups, but not others. But over time I expect the collaboration needs of these groups will be met with Microsoft Teams as that product matures. Why make the change? Cost and the fact that every employee is already licensed for Teams – the best collaboration tool is the one that everyone can use.

Personalization of technology

We are continuing to see employees wanting business technology tailored specifically to them. The iPhone created the expectation that an employee’s phone is theirs because they can install the apps they want and expect and need them to work when they are on a corporate network. When logging into business tools like Salesforce, employees want information displayed catered to their specific needs, which might be different from the way their colleague wants his/her dashboard to look. When implementing new technology, we look for providers that enable customization for our organization and for each employee. No one keeps the apps or settings on their phone exactly as they come out of the box, so why should we do that at the office? When we have personalized technologies, there is more opportunity for greater productivity and efficiency.

There is one driving force behind enabling the consumerization of technology and that is the cloud. A company that has embraced cloud computing can more easily enjoy the benefits of employees using their personal devices, choosing their preferred communication channels and personalizing business technology. Cloud-based networks can react and adapt quickly to shorten device approval cycles while getting real-time security updates to protect your network. I’ll cover the topic of moving to the cloud in depth in my next post. Stayed tuned to find out what we learned from moving a forty-year-old company to the cloud.