Get shopping

Employees of today have expectations of organisational IT systems. To face this new age employee, the Middle East CIO needs new tools.

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By  Sathya Ashok Published  March 26, 2008

In a certain movie that I saw recently, the workaholic heroine proudly says ‘I have a relationship with my cellphone. We have chemistry."

However odd that might sound at the first hearing, the truth is that all of us tend to form a bond with the devices that we use everyday. Mobile devices - laptops, PDAs, smartphones - whether or not they are primarily used for work, are our constant companions and increasingly a showcase of what we are as a person.

What's more, this expression of self is not restricted to our mobile devices, it laps on more and more to our office environments. The combination of Web 2.0 based services and solutions, along with the increasing dual role played by all of us as serious professionals and equally serious consumers, is bringing in rapid changes in mindsets, awareness and work patterns in the enterprise.

In other words, the enterprise is being consumerised.

I recently had an interesting chat with Mark Bregman, CTO of security provider Symantec. He spoke at length of enterprise consumerisation and marked it as one of the biggest trends that will change the way enterprises function in the near future. (Read more of the interview in the April issue of NME.)

This consumerisation is not something that is a future trend - it is one that is staring us in the face. In the Middle East, as anywhere else, lay-office workers are forcing IT teams to think and operate differently and to take into consideration their needs.

There are two distinct threads to consumerisation - the end-user desire and the IT team's reaction to it. The average enterprise user's IT awareness and knowledge is on the rise. While the IT department had enormous power in the past to make decisions and implement solutions and practices within organisations, this power is being fast eroded by users who are beginning to question such decisions. This means that IT departments need to sell their decision to not only the higher management but also to every end-user in the organisation. It also means that the IT teams will have to adopt technologies that have been largely restricted to the consumer space till now like wikis, blogs for example.

A free-thinking user is the horror of any CIO. The good news though is that CIOs can combat the trend by coming up with better ways to manage not only an increasing mobile workforce, but one that inevitably brings its own personal desires and wants into the way it conducts work.

Consider these. Employees tend to store their personal data on the mobile devices that they use for work. They also tend to access various websites and download files onto their devices. If the IT manager is running remote backup for the mobile device, he should have technology that is capable of archiving only the work-related data on the users's device and does not touch personal information. Similarly, the CIO should have systems that can check the health of the user's device before it is allowed entry into the corporate network, especially when working remotely.

CIOs have to constantly take user behaviour into account and deploy technology that protects the organisational network from any inadvertent mistake made by the user. And this is true for the Middle East as anywhere else.

Of course, instead of investing in all that technology, the CIO does have the option of blocking sites or banning certain behaviour on the desktop or over mobile devices - as most Middle East enterprise managers do these days. However, more mature markets have learned that simply blocking or banning cannot ensure effective security and can, at best, be only temporary measures. Users will find a way to circumvent these measures and continue to do what they wish to do. This endangers organisational networks even more since the IT team is left to fend with dangers that they do not have solutions to deal with.

To face the new age employee, the Middle East CIO needs new tools. And this time over, the best way to start understanding and dealing with the changing user environment, may be to step out and go shopping.

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