Personally, I think Apple’s new iCloud service is brilliant. Personally, I’ll be making heavy use of it. Personally, I like the idea of being able to synchronise contacts across devices. Personally, being able to coordinate documents across all my Apple devices will probably push me to buy an iPad as my primary travel computer.
I’m sure that a lot you, personally, like iCloud for similar reasons.
Personally, I’m also quite sure iCloud will send a huge number of enterprise IT managers into a state of apoplexy.
For all the cool things that this well designed solution will provide you, as an individual, I can assure you that many, many IT departments will fixate on one single fact. iCloud creates a potential situation where corporate IP will find it’s way into people’s personal clouds thus out of reach and control by the company.
Does iCloud create IP headaches that IT organizations will have to deal with? Yes. Does iCloud provide opportunities for IT organizations in delivering innovative solutions to staff. Yes. But when it comes to Apple, the glass is half empty for many IT departments. It’s easier, and more satisfying, to hit the “ban it” button then to look for creative ways to take advantage of the new solution.
So here’s my prediction. Because iCloud is provided as an automatic and free service with iOS 5 we will see IT departments, fixated on this problem, seek to prohibit staff from upgrading their iPhones and iPads. Whether they can enforce this or not is immaterial. Whether a whole lot of other tools that create the same potential risks will be left unnoticed will also be immaterial. We’re talking about those IT organizations with an inbuilt dislike for Apple getting a taste of blood. If you’re currently working for a company that has blocked access to Facebook and Twitter because they fear a loss of IP, you can count on this happening. If you’re a sales rep working for a company that demands all your client’s contact details are entered the corporate CRM system then prepare yourself for the email telling you that iOS 5 upgrades are banned.
And of course all new iPad and iPhone acquisitions, once they start getting shipped with iOS 5, will need to be put on hold. It doesn’t matter whether they’re company or employee funded or made available through agreements with the mobile provider.
For a whole lot of organizations out there, the battle between corporate users and their IT departments is about to escalate.
And that will be a shame. Because at the end of the day this will just delay the inevitable.
Apple’s vision of personal computing has unleashed a massive, pent up demand amongst people. That is undeniable. But they are just one of many companies having success in reaching out directly to the user rather than granting to the enterprise IT department the status of rightful proxy to these people’s requirements. It is also clear that people are no longer prepared to separate their personal and professional digital lives in the way the IT department would like. These two intersecting trends are challenging underlying assumptions of what enterprise computing is all about. Enterprise IT departments can rage all they want about these providers. The thing is they won’t change for you. Nor will the users. Ultimately the enterprise IT department can, should and will probably be the ones having to change.
I am not advocating that IT governance controls simply melt away to make room these consumer-oriented providers. But I am suggesting that some creative thinking might yield innovative solutions that can integrate this very different class of provider into the fabric of the IT environment. Consider something like PC fleet management. How can this process be adapted to deal with a range of devices that will be acquired directly by the employee (there is no such thing as a global iPad rollout driven by the IT department)? How should software version control be governed when some systems will be updated automatically by the supplier through the cloud? You get the picture.
It has been my observation that enterprise IT organizations are some of the most resistant departments to change. Conversely, when change becomes absolutely unavoidable they display an amazing ability to craft intelligent, finely-tuned governance controls to deal with the new reality.
I’d like to suggest to all of you in enterprise IT organizations that changing to adapt to a world of what I call DTTU providers (that’s “direct to the user”) has become absolutely unavoidable.
You might as well start adapting with iCloud.
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