Why You Should Stop Worrying and Let End Users Have Their iPads

When employees have technology they like, they’ll make themselves productive in ways you never dreamed. So let them have their iPads and Android tablets.

About 15 years ago, there was a movement in IT to reduce platforms. CIOs wanted to simplify environments that included the odd minicomputer from the 1980s, Unix and Windows servers, PC and Mac desktops and a raft of applications of mixed vintage.

Pleading exorbitant cost and too many user complaints, CIOs said they were limiting options. IT set rigid rules dictating which desktops and laptops employees were allowed to use and which applications they could put on them. One big move was eliminating all Macs and their applications—infuriating loyal fans, including many C-level executives. Many users never forgot that act or forgave the CIO. IT lost in its effort to position itself as a facilitator of business needs. In many cases, IT became a gatekeeper—far too often saying “no” to what end users wanted.

Now, organizations are experiencing a new explosion in technology platforms, including iPhones and iPads that employees purchase for themselves but want to use at and for work. Android devices are rapidly making similar inroads. And the Mac is making a stunning recovery. This puts you, as the CIO, in an interesting position: Will you keep saying no, or will you become a hero by supporting the IT that users really like and want?

Think Like a Marketer

As IT pros, our tendency is to do rigorous requirements and platform analyses to determine what we think is the best technology. We count acquisition and integration costs, and we define our needs to include technology that works within our existing infrastructure and application base. We investigate all the possible security issues, identify vendors that can support us, and do a thorough cost-benefit analysis, with a keen eye for implementation expenses that would be avoided if we maintained the status quo. Ease of use and user desire rarely get a lot of consideration.

It’s unlikely that the iPad, for example, would win in such an analysis, even though it’s by far the most popular tablet today and is used extensively by senior executives.

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