Imagine this; you’re fresh out of college where you used an Android, iOS, and maybe even a Chromebook for the past four years. Your first day on the job you are given a laptop that weighs more than most of your other devices combined, it’s running Windows XP (an OS you haven’t used in years), and when you log in (which takes 5 minutes) you are presented with a desktop experience that is completely locked down so you can’t install any software. To make matters worse, to use your phone for work you have to accept a set of rules/polices that give you a sub-par experience and leaves you with the feeling that your new company is playing big brother every time you use your phone. As a fresh college grad, you have just entered the twilight zone (actually as a fresh college grad you probably don’t get that reference and are wondering why I’m talking about vampires). This story is all too familiar for young employees and due to consumerization it’s becoming endemic across the majority of employees, not just the young ones.
My colleague, Chris Wolf, has a catch phrase these days, “Embrace the chaos”. He uses this phrase to encourage companies not to be afraid of all of these forces that are set to destroy IT as we know it. The chaos is a combination of mobile devices, BYOD, SaaS, Cloud data and our employees’ reluctance to accept any technology that is perceived as an inferior experience. If we IT people are honest with each other, we’ve never accepted these inferior experiences. IT has always found a way around the rules, because we are the ones that enforce the rules. We know how to get around our proxy servers, disable our crippling security products, create back doors for external access to our desktops, we’ve been doing this for a decade. The fact that the cat’s out of the bag shouldn’t surprise us, but it has caught many companies off guard and some don’t know how to respond. For instance:
I was on the phone with a client the other day that was asking about using SBC and SHVD/VDI for some use cases. This organization had tried many different approaches to “embracing the chaos” but none seemed to work:
- Desktops: Users were unhappy with their desktops so the organization implemented a choose your own device (CYOD) policy. Whereby employees could get MacBooks and other eye candy devices that were very popular. They decided to do a CYOD instead of a BYOD because IT still wanted control over the device, so they could secure it and keep people from installing applications on it.
- Phones: Users were unhappy with the choice in phones (only BlackBerry’s were supported). The company opened up so iOS and Androids could be used so long as they accepted the policies of a new MDM system that was purchased. The policy blocked various content, allowed IT to remote wipe the device, and only allowed a specific mail client to work with their work email.
- Data: Users had no way of easily sharing data so Dropbox, Skydrive, Google drive and other file sharing services were used. The business responded by purchasing security software to block “all” of these services.
To the companies astonishment although they were now supporting the majority of the devices their users wanted to use, the complaints did not stop. This company’s next foray into supporting mobility is to use SBC/SHVD/VDI so they could lock down the desktop/application and deliver it over a remote connection. It’s a safe bet that this isn’t going to be received very well either.
The problem to me is very simple. This is IT providing the “illusion” of embracing the chaos. In reality, they’ve embraced nothing beyond applying the same lock-down and control we have lived with for the last 2 decades. Wrapping this in the guise of (limited) device choice or outright denying users access to data/collaboration services without providing a reasonable alternative is a textbook example of why shadow IT exists.
When users ask for device choice or device “support” the last thing in the world they actually want is “support” from IT; what they are really asking for is “just let me use this without you getting in the way” or “don’t be a roadblock to using this device/service”. IT still operates under the idea that “to support” means “to manage”. This disconnect leads to exactly the situation described above – user revolt. This means IT loses anyway. Forget security and compliance, users will continue to do their jobs in any way that allows them to avoid your security and compliance measures. Content they create simply will never enter your walled garden leading to exactly what you were trying to avoid – non-compliance and… chaos. Welcome back to square one. “That is why you fail”.
This approach is wrong. It’s time for IT to support users the way they want to work. To do this IT needs to become what it always has been, a service business. If IT doesn’t do this users will continue to abandon the devices IT supplies, the applications IT delivers, and all the security measures IT puts in place; and users will do this all in the name of productivity. The funny thing is the chaos doesn’t scare me, what scares me is when IT doesn’t embrace it, because the worst that can happen is if IT succeeds and in doing so kills productivity.
Disclaimer: Gartner analysts use their blogs to share their personal views and opinions on subjects close to their hearts.
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