by Ben Worthen

Prepare Your Company for the Web Computing Revolution

May 01, 20062 mins
Consumer ElectronicsInternet

The shift to Web computing is already happening, even if it may not be noticeable in your workplace. Near ubiquitous high-speed Internet access is giving your company’s employees access to Web-based applications at home. Inevitably, they will find and use the applications they like best. Soon CIOs will be faced with a choice, says Dave Girouard, general manager of Google’s enterprise division. “The CIO can be the source of the tools, or he can take the hardball approach and try to shut them down.”

The thing is, says Girouard, people are going to use them either way.

History bears this out. “A lot of the innovation that ends up in front of CIOs starts off in a user’s home,” says Paul Kedrosky, executive director of the William J. von Liebig Center, a venture capital firm. “Think back 20 years ago. The rear guard action would have been to make sure that my users aren’t buying PCs when I am not looking.”

CIOs who don’t want to be marching in the rear of change can start taking small steps today. H&R Block CIO Marc West says that CIOs should think twice about every client/server application they install. “If you are a PeopleSoft customer who’s going to have to upgrade to Oracle, you should be seriously questioning that investment,” says West. “Do you need to keep all that information in one application? Maybe some things don’t belong in PeopleSoft.”

As Internet-connected devices like PDAs and cell phones become more popular (and IDC research shows that they will soon outnumber PCs), employees will demand access to information through them. And since these devices aren’t powerful enough to run client/server applications, it will be up to CIOs to provide Web-based applications for those employees or risk, as Girouard says, “losing their constituencies.”

Or, as Sue Feldman, IDC vice president of content strategies research, puts it, “CIOs have to become part of the network.”