by Mark Gibbs

Old Wisdom, New IT Realities

Nov 04, 20113 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsIT Strategy

Do you really want to fight with your users over consumer tech in the enterprise? Hint: It's often a losing battle....

You know the old saw: “If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em”? As corny as that may be, when it comes to dealing with the influx of alien tech that your users bring in to your organization every day, that’s a really good bit of advice.


For example, there you are, in the IT group, and you have a user who wants you to get excited about, say, the Roambi app (which is outstanding) they just found in the Apple App Store and downloaded to their work iPad or iPhone and now they’re uploading sales data to test it out and sharing their models of what they’ve forgotten is really private data with everyone. It slices and dices and isn’t it great looking! And it was free!

You, my friend, have two choices; you can either adopt the persona of a god of IT and dismiss their enthusiasm with a haughty wave of your hand and pronounce their find as a huge FAIL because it’s not architected for the enterprise or you can engage with their enthusiasm and discover what drives their interest in whatever the app does and, if you’re smart, encourage them to think in IT terms rather than consumer terms.

Now, before we discuss the issues of engaging their excitement we have to consider what happens when we dismiss the user’s excitement out-of-hand.

Remember, the user is amped, they’ve found a solution and they understand it. You come along, sneer as only someone with a gazillion years of IT experience and the certain knowledge that this bozo is going to wind up being a pain in your ***, and what have you got? A user who not only hates you, but also will do whatever they can to get their own way!

They’ll go to their manager and point out that they found a solution and IT didn’t. They can get the job done, which, while debatable, will not be what the problem has become … what the problem has become is political!

Now your adversaries are not only the users but also their bosses. Have one or two users pissed off with you is one thing, but having an entire department against you is a recipe for corporate ugliness.

Contrast the scenario of the user excited about a solution (even with warts and carbuncles) with many of the solutions that IT wants to promote where the user has to be educated and learn a process. How much fun do you think the user will see in the Big IT way of doing things?! But a free app that the user “groks” … that they care about? That could be an advertisement:

The user’s app: free.

Your time: $90 per hour.

Getting them to work with you: priceless.

So, before you dismiss the user’s “find” and their excitement with a wave of the hand, consider that consumerization of IT brings with it both new horrors, as in stuff you can’t ever really control, and new opportunities; joining your users, getting them on your side and getting them to grok what enterprise IT really means.