Monday, October 10, 2011

A Leading Indicator of "Consumerized IT"?

Let me start with a game: Try to guess the type of customer I met with last week...
  • Roughly 5,000 users with ~ 25% annual turnover
  • Pressured to support multiple user-provided devices (Smart phones, iPads, etc.)
  • Significant "Shadow IT" (e.g. users turning to external web services w/out IT's knowledge)
  • Inquiring into a VDI environment to increase manageability, reduce costs
  • Increasingly huge storage needs, esp. for video (on-demand media, surveillance, etc.) 
Give up?  Well, this customer was a High School district, with thousands of students and hundreds of faculty. And they shocked me with their challenges, ones which I assumed only large enterprises had.  I have to admit I was pretty surprised at their level of sophistication - and their vision.

And then it dawned on me: These guys actually more of a "leading indicator" than most their commercial enterprise cousins.  Their internal customers are nearly all Millennials, arguably leading users of consumer technology, and sometimes the most demanding. The student base requires support for "any device, any time", and doesn't hesitate to use external commercial services rather than IT (think: kids using DropBox, Evernote, Mobile Me, etc.). Also, users (students) without their own personal "smart" devices will typically log into multiple alternative devices a number of times each day, requiring virtual display and authentication technologies.

So, think about it: These students - and their appetite for "consumerized" technologies, will be your workforce of tomorrow.

What that high school IT department is facing is what most IT will be facing during the next few years. So consider carefully who (and what) you'll need to support in the coming years. And consider the organizational, technological, and governance transitions you'll need to implement as well.

In a recent Forrester Research report, "Shifting from Rules to Guardrails" there are some good observations of how IT (and the CIO) have to transform from being technologists to becoming brokers, vendor managers, and providers of technology governance:
"We see a blurring boundary between business and IT. The rise of self-service technologies, driven by empowered employees, provides new opportunities for IT to improve business responsiveness by enabling greater autonomy... To do this successfully, IT must evolve new governance approaches that empower the business with guardrails and education, reserving strict technology control for only the most critical technology assets. For many, this will be a radical change.
So, my lesson was that the places to look for Leading Indicators of IT transformation aren't necessarily the analysts and brainiac IT leaders... Instead, perhaps I should focus more on the needs of the 9th grade entering class.

I hope to stay in touch with the IT staff at the school district, and see what priorities (and solutions) they see emerging in the coming months.  As I exited the meeting, one of the IT leaders took me aside and also mentioned that IT has also experienced - not surprisingly - hacker break-ins as well.  As I said, perhaps the youngsters are where to look...

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