Enterprise IT departments can have a bright future – if they embrace the empowered employee.
When thinking about your IT department, words like “user friendly” and “responsive” are not the first that come to mind. More likely, it would be “unresponsive” or even “the department of no.”
Sadly, if you asked your IT department how they think they’re doing, they would say the same. A survey RES software conducted with IDG earlier this year noted that only 28% of IT leaders believe they are delivering on business needs effectively.
Consumerization and phenomena like BYOD have changed the way employees interact with technology at work, and service levels and turnaround times that were once effective and satisfactory to the business are now perceived as obstructive and slow. But it doesn’t have to be this way! With technology available today, enterprise IT departments are poised to enter a golden age – as long as they’re not afraid to shake things up a little.
The Time for Changing the IT Mindset is Now
The new breed of tech-savvy young professionals who are accustomed to sophisticated and efficient technologies in their personal lives are taking over the workplace – and, with alternative cloud-based solutions often just a credit card away, they’re skeptical about traditional roles of IT departments. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2030 millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. And the consumer-facing technologies that are serving this generation are developing at the speed of light thanks to enormous demand. From their point of view, the thought of going through an IT person to do something as simple as changing a password is ridiculous.
Enterprise technologies, on the other hand, are burdened by rising costs, shrinking budgets and security and compliance demands that don’t consider today’s “always connected” environment. The result? A compelling new dynamic where new-generation employees no longer feel inhibited by IT. They will proactively pursue alternative solutions if current IT resources and processes don’t meet their needs. So how can IT make this shift, along with their forward-thinking employees?
According to a 2011 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, almost 60% of young workers reported workplace technology as an important consideration when selecting an employer. Today’s “new IT” revolves around this new reality: employees expect the same fast and intuitive technology experience in the workplace that they are so accustomed to in their daily lives. This expectation is so influential, the sophistication of IT at a company is more than ever seen as part of a company’s benefits package; and new talent is starting to evaluate the company’s level of technology as an important value proposition to becoming an employee. If a company’s technology is stuck in the past, it may risk missing out on top talent to more innovative employers.
Customer-Centric Information Technology
To meet the demands of users, IT must reconsider how infrastructure technology is viewed. It is no longer enough for software and tools to simply “get the job done.” IT instead must integrate technology that supports the workflows of the end user – the employee – and the processes of the business.
Expecting employees to accept what they perceive as the inefficient, bureaucratic pace of traditional IT operations is no longer an option. By changing the way the average employee interacts with IT, and making them feel like customers of the IT department instead of nuisances, employees can spend less time pulling their hair out about how long it takes IT to deliver a new application, provide access to a new IT service, or change a password. Rather, they can spend that valuable time doing the actual work they’ve been hired to do. If that sounds like a worthy objective for today’s IT departments, let’s consider how this can be done.
Imagine empowering your company’s employees to access these services and applications through an interface that resembles the ease of use of the Apple App Store or Google Play. Self-service automation technologies for the business can provide IT services just as fast as these much touted consumer app stores. And because they can be executed without “ripping and replacing” existing systems, there’s truly no reason for IT not to pursue them. These innovative “IT stores” can house the company’s entire catalog of IT services and applications – including popular SaaS services like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office 365.
While self-servicing is an essential first step in bridging the gap between the IT department and the employee through a familiar and consumer-like user interface, it is only the start in building an IT model that truly supports the business. Businesses can automate on and off boarding, give employees self-service data access, and reduce the number of service desk tickets and turnaround times that are such an encumbrance to the IT team by taking the intuitive interface of an “app store” supported by underlying automation and security rules. IT can also personalize which services each individual employee is qualified to access or request, to eradicate over-consumption of resources.
Those services can also be adapted in real time based on the devices, locations, times of day and other factors affecting the user’s experience. Do you really want your employees accessing confidential customer data while leisurely sipping a latte and connecting from a coffee shop’s public network? You have the ability to automatically eliminate access to such applications within an unauthorized network.
As a result, IT can produce and deliver a single, comprehensive platform for each and every employee to use as their adaptable and secure IT “hub.”
Making IT Easy
Perhaps considering the possibility that we are headed to a golden age of IT where there are no more support tickets isn’t so farfetched. Imagine a world where enterprises could handle virtually all users’ needs automatically and proactively, eliminating the need for support/service desk tickets. The advantage of implementing a full-service IT platform, with a responsive and welcoming app store-like interface is that it generates the most effective interactions between employees and the IT department. It is so effective, in fact, that the employee often won’t even realize that the interaction is happening at all because their technology needs will be met automatically, without initiating requests from IT.
When you put the largest part of IT services in the hands of a new generation of tech-savvy employees and automate the majority of the processes remaining, you’re left with a more productive worker and an IT department with better control over technological operations throughout the enterprise.
The Future for IT Leaders
Forward-thinking IT will spend much less time on processes that can be automated, leaving much more time to spend on forward-looking IT initiatives, focusing on improving the business’ IT infrastructure for the benefit of the user and propelling the company forward, thus moving from a reactive to a proactive mindset.
Enterprise IT can take a page from the user experience playbooks of major, successful consumer-facing companies such as Apple and Google. Technology that’s readily available to the enterprise today can almost immediately reduce inefficiencies, increase security and deliver an experience for both the end users and IT staff that allows them to devote more time to productivity. It’s all about serving employees as customers of IT – while preserving the security, scalability and compliance needs of the enterprise – with a technology that doesn’t disrupt the existing infrastructure.
With the right technology, IT can turn its outdated reputation on its head and delight even the most technology sated millennial. It’s just too good an opportunity to miss.
By Bob Janssen, CTO and Founder of @bobtopus & Linkedin.,helps IT professionals master the impacts of IT consumerization, increasingly sophisticated corporate users, bring-your-own-device initiatives and cloud technologies by building a foundation for delivering IT as a Service. You can follow Bob on Twitter