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To Boldly Go Beyond BYOD

Every enterprise has a Chief Information Officer. How about (groan) the Starship Enterprise?

While there was no actual CIO on-board the NCS-1701, the choices from The Original Series are  obvious: Chief Science Officer Spock or Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott.

Spock may have green-blooded logic on his side. But my vote goes to Scotty. Not only does Mr. Scott manage all of the Enterprise’s technical infrastructure, but he’s got the trademark pessimism of someone in that position.

How many times did we hear Kirk demand, “Scotty! We. Need. More. POWER!” and hear Scotty admonish him, “Captain – the Dilithium Chamber is already at maximum! She cannae hold much longer!”

Considering Scotty’s Zero-for-347 record at predicting the Enterprise’s imminent self-destruction, I’ve concluded that Scotty was, perhaps, just maybe, I don’t know, just a wee bit overdramatic.

A Debbie Downer in a Glaswegian accent. In other words, a lot like your traditional CIO.

Worrying about network failures, hackers and budgets isn’t as stressful as watching your ship potentially disintegrate week after week. But it still tends to put a furrow in the brow and streak the hair fifty shades of gray.

The problem is when that reflexive glass-half-empty ‘tude starts to color everything you see. Take, for example, the trepidation with which many CIOs treat the twin trends of Consumerization of IT and Bring Your Own Device.

CIOs may rightfully worry about the security/infrastructure implications of allowing a sudden influx of employee-owned mobile devices onto their networks. But they also forget about all of the real-time business they can start to do without having to invest a single dime in new hardware.

Heck, they even forget about all of the unsuccessful begging that many of them were doing a decade ago when they tried to introduce mobile devices in the workplace.

Not IT consultant Steve Romero. “It used to be a struggle to get users to adopt mobile devices,” he reminded listeners during the Coffee Break with Gamechangers Radio show last week. “Today, half of the battle is already won for them [CIOs]. Workers now have the physical asset [their own smartphone or tablet] and a willingness to learn. But organizations don’t look at it that way.”

To borrow a metaphor from another Universe Far Far Away, it’s as if someone had Jedi Mind-Tricked these CIOs to look only at Dark Side of Mobility.

But the Force is strong with Mobile. Even with the roadblocks thrown up by IT departments, workers are getting their way. Forrester analyst George Lawrie said during the SAP-sponsored radio show last week that 74% of corporate information workers use two or more devices for work, with 52% using three or more.

Based on history, he sees mobile’s rise in the work world as inevitable.

“Why did client/server take off in companies? Because people already had a PC at home,” said Lawrie.

The Final Frontier

And BYOD will be the way forward for most companies. But enterprises need to stop using Impulse Power and start operating at the Warp Speed of the consumer market.

“To be a business frontrunner, it’s unacceptable to be a year or even six months behind consumer trends,” said SAP CIO Oliver Bussmann during the same radio program.

Bussmann is an example of an IT leader who has shifted out of the traditional defensive mode of thinking for a CIO, i.e. minimizing problems and keeping TCO down, to thinking offensively, such as how can I deliver new technologies that empower workers and deliver ROI.

That’s why Bussmann himself, not someone working for him, has been personally testing the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone for the past several weeks.

This Android device – released in Europe today, and the U.S. later this month – is widely expected to be a hit. Bussmann has high praise for it.

“It’s the perfect smartphone. I expect huge demand from my internal users,” he said.

Besides keeping pace with the consumer market, companies need to move beyond simply tolerating BYOD to actively encouraging it.

This is why SAP – which has deployed more than 14,000 iPads, 8,000 iPhones and 1,000 Android Samsung devices to employees – is setting up centers to help employees test drive new smartphones and tablets and technical help with devices and apps when needed.

“They’ll be just like Genius Bars,” Bussmann said, referring to the Service centers inside Apple Stores.

Bussmann is setting up these ‘Genius Bars’ in three SAP offices – Mumbai, India, the U.S. headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and the global headquarters in Walldorf, Germany.

Details are scarce today, but I hope to hear a lot more about SAP’s “Genius Bars” within a month and share that with you. But this is the sort of best practice that progressive companies led by forward-thinking CIOs should consider adopting, not just as a way to boost employee satisfaction but also the corporate bottom line. I’d like to think even the dour Mr. Scott would approve.

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