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.
You might reach a different decision if you think like a marketer. You can recognize and accept that people care about factors such as size, weight, ease of use and even coolness—preferences that aren’t often captured in a typical requirements analysis. And if you find a way to give people what they want, they’ll love you.
Additionally, when people have technology they like, they find ways to use it beyond what they, or you, envisioned. I’ve seen that once people own an iPhone or iPad, they investigate new applications because the devices are so easy to use.
Instead of predefining the devices your organization uses, let users drive adoption. The iPad is a perfect example of technology that can turn the adversarial relationship between users and IT on its head. By asking users what they want and how to make their work lives easier, you can make the business more successful.
In his new book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple, writes about ways to win others over to your cause. If you can learn to be enchanting, letting greater satisfaction lead to greater success, you might kick-start the organization into thinking differently about IT. Rather than always talking about cost, efficiency and homogeneity, IT can become a function that improves individual and company performance.
Adam Hartung is a consultant specializing in innovation and the author of Creating Marketplace Disruption: How to Stay Ahead of the Competition. He is also managing partner of Spark Partners. Contact him at AdamHartung.com.