The technical impact of consumerisation of IT can be disruptive to CIOs, but possibly a less well considered aspect of the trend is the impact to management processes.
Consumerisation challenges the traditional balance of power where the deployment of IT is concerned. It also necessarily alters the way employees think about the business technology they use and the responsibility they have for it.
In a recent webcast, Simon Callow, head of IT at Aston Martin Lagonda and Owen Powell IT Director at the NHS at inner Northwest London PCT was joined by Steve Shakespeare EU software director at Intel to discuss the repercussions of Employees using consumer devices for work purposes.
All three panellist agreed that consumersation has reversed the direction through which IT innovation in the corporate arena flows. Employee expectations over the usabilty of the technology they use have risen sharply and the IT department is finding itself having to react to user demands where before they used to dictate strategy.
Command and control ends
Powell explained that the NHS is traditionally a command and control environment, but IT departments in the UK healthcare industry have had to adapt to senior staff wanting to use consumer devices.
He says: “What we're seeing is that particularly senior people are leading this kind of innovation. They're the ones that are bringing the iPads and the laptops in, so it's very difficult to impose command and control from below.”
Consumerisation gives the IT department less elbow-room to dictate to users what technology they will have at their disposal, but as Callow points out, the benefits to the business in terms of working processes that the trend brings are very compelling too.
He focuses on the mobility that consumerisation brings as an illustration of how the IT department can contribute to a more fluid, more productive way of working.
His C-level peers at Aston Martin Lagonda have challenged him to increase productivity and consumerisation allows staff to operate wherever they are, in an always-on way.
Employees across the board are becoming much more aware of the importance in maintaining a balance between their working and personal lives and accept that for this to happen, work and personal life are no longer discrete segments of the day, but that they may alternate between the two throughout the day.
This may mean being out of work in the day, and working on corporate activities at home during the evening, if necessary. Studies have found that productivity rises if employees adopt this way of working.
Making use of consumer technology can enable workforces to operate in this way, without the cost of issuing everyone with corporate mobile devices.
He says: “What the businesses challenging me for is the elimination of non-productive hours and I think mobility gives us that opportunity, and that goes back to the always-on piece.”
The key for Callow is getting the most out of every employee, which mirrors the demands of the car-making industry, always looking for improvements in production efficiencies.
The health sector is also a highly mobile workplace and staff are expected to spend a minimal amount of their day stuck at desk. Powell recognises that the more quickly a mobile strategy is deployed, the faster the benefits can be realised.
If staff are using devices they are already familiar with, this will only speed up that process.
A large amount of staff in healthcare have very limited experience of corporate computing, although they do use consumer devices with ease.
If their work processes need to be computerised, a natural option would be to deploy the relevant applications on their own devices, rather than spend time and money training them in a corporate system.
“Back in the day you'd have users who would see corporate IT as bit of a chore. It’s not necessarily something they wanted to do,” Powell says.
The CIO Big Conversation
Consumerisation: How to manage the new era of mobility
Date: Thursday 25th October 2012
Location: The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London
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“People feel about IT much more positively now they've got much more usable devices and massive amount has happened in terms of usability and how people interact with these things. That's breaking out a lot of the barriers and it means that people are using corporate IT much more [readily].”
Useability is not the end of the story though, as it’s the changes in business processes that employees really respond to. Improved collaboration at work is an issue that the IT department has tried to address for some time.
The influx of consumer devices, enabling staff to be available wherever they are, has made remote collaboration much easier to achieve.
Callow praises the gains Aston Martin has achieved through collaboration tools such as Microsoft’s Sharepoint.
Aston Martin has close links with third-party suppliers, which need to be kept in the loop with company developments, if the car-maker is to be able to react swiftly to changes in the market.
Callow believes his collaboration tools help the company do that.
He says: “And, why wouldn't we do that down the supply chain? Federation within the supply chain can help us shorten the development cycles of the particular product we are dishing out, which happens to be luxury sports cars.”
Some of those partners are offshore, which makes the prospect of face-to-face collaboration at the level the company needs to stay nimble pretty much impossible.
Intel’s Shakespeare agrees. Both organisations have international workforces which need to share digital documents and work together through applications that can be delivered to remote consumer devices.
A global reach crosses time zones, so employees need to be able to access collaboration tools through laptops and smartphones at home as well as their desktop at work.
“We have teams in Israel teams and in the US that have to collaborate together and they have to collaborate electronically. It's not an option to use paper and we have an enormous number of security systems that secure the intellectual property that we hold within the organisation,” Shakespeare says.
“So increasingly, collaboration in many respects is old, but things like video collaboration - it's a great way to be more productive in the business.”
Shakespeare touches on a significant aspect of the CIO’s role in adopting consumerisation as a corporate strategy for improving work processes here.
Security of the organisation’s data has to be maintained, even though information is flowing outside the digital walls of the company.
NHS’s Powell is well aware of the sensitivity of data within his organisation, which has to process a huge amount of personal information about patients.
He has a well-defined approach to managing where that data goes, in terms of security protocols, but this has to be matched with some people-management too.
He recommends that security protocols have to be communicated to all users and that they must acknowledge that they have understood them and will undertake to abide by them.
“Our tactical approach at the moment is to be crystal clear about the sacrosanct nature of patient information,” he says.
“So, people really need to understand that certain data isn't supposed to exist on these things and they are for convenience only.”
Powell allows certain corporate data to be held on employees own devices, but he insists that the IT department has the ability to wipe the device if it is lost or stolen. This means the employees’ personal documents, pictures and other media will also be wiped and there is a communication task here to make sure that employees accept that risk.
He says: “Staff need to be crystal clear when they use a personal device for work that they are at risk of losing a whole lot of personal data, if they lose a device and they have to sign something to say that they agree to that in advance.”
For the future though, Powell thinks that the employee’s awareness of the security impact of processing company data through a personal device has to go even deeper.
He says that employees have to be made aware of the potential impact that letting certain data could have on their organisation and take individual responsibility for it.
“In the longer term, not necessarily being deployed at the moment, but we need to take a different approach to keeping data safe. My personal view is that end users need to take a more personal responsibility for the data they hold,” he says.
“The constraints on where data is allowed to go are disappearing and the responsibility has to flow with the data, to the end users and that's fine as long as it's well understood by them.”
Part of this process, Powell says, is classifying data on a much more granular level, so that employees have a better understanding of how they should treat each piece of data they hold. Once they have a clear idea of the potential for harm different data has, employees can be held accountable if they are careless with it.
“We need to update our policies and guidelines because again that's one of our control mechanisms that we have we have a policy that people sign up to and if they contravene that policy then they are in trouble,” Powell says.
“This is the key things to me. Security, as much as a technical issue, it's also a behavioural issue. It's what people do with data and how people use the computers that they have.”