Forrester: Consumerisation of IT can be an opportunity

IT should support employee innovations

IT needs to adapt to a new 'empowered' era, where customers have more information available to them than ever before, and employees are bringing new technologies into the business first, says Forrester.

A recent survey by the analyst house found that 30 percent of information workers in the UK, France and Germany, were doing at least one IT activity for work without the support of IT, such as downloading and regularly using applications on a work computer, or paying for a smartphone used for work. Forrester believes that this is a significantly large number.

"Game-changing technology will always be available to employees first. IT will always be playing catch-up," said Ted Schadler, analyst at Forrester and co-author of Forrester's 'Empowered' book, which urges organisations to "unleash your employees, energise your customers and transform your business".

Forrester believes that IT needs to deal with a new set of technologies to support the empowered customer and employee, with a particular focus on social and mobile.

"IT has to master a whole new set of marketing technology, mobile technology, social technology for social engagement and video technology. They don't have to do it, they can outsource it, but it's an extension of the IT role," Schadler.

Schadler said there are parallels between the company-wide change that is required for businesses to operate successfully in the empowered era, with the change that occurred when e-commerce arrived on the scene.

As it had to do when e-commerce became pervasive, in the empowered era IT will have to co-ordinate with the rest of the business in new ways.

For instance, funding structures may have to be changed.

"If the marketing department needs to build a mobile application, that comes out of the marketing budget, but if it connects to a transactional capability, it will need to connect to the finance backend, and that has to come out of the IT budget. So a lot more coordination between IT and the rest of the business is needed," said Schadler.

In another example, Schadler said that IT will have to work with HR to educate employees about the risks of the technology they use, especially if they are bringing the technologies into the work place. The business may need to design a social networking policy that outlines how much information an workers can disclose to the outside world on sites such as Twitter, for example.

Risk is clearly a significant issue, but Schadler believes that IT will need to address this in a different way as well.

"Instead of saying 'no, it's too risky', you have to understand and mitigate the risk and determine if it's a risk worth taking. Technology risk is just another form of risk. It is not an IT decision, it's a whole business discussion. Can you quantify the risk so business managers can understand?" he said.

Although creating risk assessment models, determining the financial damage and the likelihood of the damage occurring, is nothing new, Schadler advises that IT needs to "make it [the risk assessments] more visible, more business-centric and to distribute it more broadly in the organisation."

However, while businesses should be more open to weighing up the risks of innovation, as employees bring more, and increasingly wide-ranging, technologies into the workplace, IT still needs to consider how much diversity their organisation can tolerate.

"Diversity is generally bad for productivity. There has to be a constant evaluation of technology. IT has to be pragmatic about the trade-off between diversity and uniformity," Schadler said.

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