Isn't technology great? When your valued staff are away from the office meeting with clients and suppliers, or perhaps they are overseas expounding the value of your brand you can still contact them through the ubiquitous mobile phone. Yes technology is wonderful, unless you are a CIO.
As technology constantly improves and lowers in cost so its pervasiveness causes CIOs problems. Recently a number of studies have demonstrated that the enterprise is awash with smartphones, laptops and now Tablets that the CIO has no jurisdiction over, yet these devices are used to interact with the CIO's information infrastructure. In a meeting yesterday with business travel specialists HRG the full scale of this problem was brought home to me in small discussion with the CTO and commercial director of the British company.
Stewart Harvey, HRG Commercial Director revealed that the Ash cloud that shut Europe's airspace earlier this year revealed the weakness of the technology world we live in, and not just because aircraft engines don't like ingesting stacks of volcanic ash. Harvey regaled how with staff unable to return to their UK desks organisations felt powerless and began to realise that they had to ensure that their staff had a good travel experience when they represent their organisation overseas.
What the Ash cloud exposed was that organisations don't have access to the itinerary of their travellers in many cases, therefore it is difficult for the organisation to help the stranded business traveller make changes to their accommodation, for example and good quality information is also hard to get to them. The latter point is especially difficult because all this great technology means business travellers are getting lots of information from the web and 24 hour news, but it may not be targeted to them. Harvey said this was especially true in the recent un-reset in Thailand where it was safe for people to travel to the airport with caution.
Paul Saggar, Director Technology and Product Development, essentially the CTO, described how this issue is set to grow as the mobile access continues to grow. As the App craze persists in the wake of the iPhone and iPad CIOs will face increasing issues of their end users demanding new ways of interacting with technology.
One area of particular concern for CIOs is that many iPhone Apps ask the user for: "Application control permissions" which can often mean that the App developer gets access to your calendar, address details etc.
Another potential headache for CIOs Saggar has seen is that software developers are releasing iPhone App variants of their applications, which individuals download and begin using to interact with expenses systems for example. Saggqar is concerned CIOs may discover their infrastructure is being thrown wide open without their knowledge.
Saggar, Harvey and HRG in general are not Daily Mail panic merchants who want every CIO to lock down all mobile access to every system. Far from it, our meeting was a chance to reflect on how business travel is being drastically altered by mobile technology. From listening to their thoughts I came away realising just how big a challenge the plethora of devices your workers personally and the risk they could pose to your enterprise.