For the last 25 years of the computer industry we have been subservient. Less than five years ago, we gladly accepted whatever computer our employer handed us. We grimaced but hit delete when our mailboxes and hard drives ran out of storage. Our personal email and chat rarely made it into the workplace. We did what our IT departments told us to do.
For some companies the status quo still prevails due to tight regulation and security -- and might continue for some time -- but for everyone else, change is afoot as we've all turned into super-consumers of everything digital. Smart phones got smart. Really smart. Super-sized applications got micro-sized and shopped at a price point to match. The cloud unleashed infinite storage accessible with the swipe of a credit card. Universal broadband connectivity meant work, well, didn't happen "at work" anymore. Email has taken a backseat to Twitter, Chatter and Facebook. The PC shifted from being a productivity tool to a life tool. And it wasn't just that our PC at home was better than the office-issued system, it was cooler to. It was personal.
Some call this "consumerization," which is a bit like calling the French Revolution a "political event." The phrase masks all the emotion and determination the average employee has today for overcoming and outmaneuvering any IT department impeding on their ability to participate and produce. The barriers to the revolution are low. As mobile broadband penetrates every device it will get even lower.
For years Blackberrys have been the staple diet of any corporate IT consumer. So, when I started using a larger tablet device powered by Android I was unsure what to expect. To say I was "blown away," would be an understatement. Because I quickly discovered it isn't the size or form factor of the device that made it indispensible. It was how it enabled my work and personal life to move seamlessly across all of the devices I use--from my car Bluetooth-enabled infotainment unit to my laptop to my tablet to my multiple smart phones--thanks to cloud-enabled applications that are available to me at the push of a button. Some of my favorites include:Evernote, DropBox, Seesmic, TripIit, SlideIT.
Rather than restricting my ability to get productive in the way I see as best, our IT team is enabling it. Virtualization means all the apps I need stream through the cloud to me. Business email arrives in an app that is managed through the cloud. If I lost my device, my IT department could kill the work data with the touch of a button. I scale storage up and down as I need it. My "lifestream" merges seamlessly with business.
The "I" in IT always stood for information. Not infrastructure. And the smart IT teams are getting back to delivering the services that allow information to flow. To do this, they're challenging the status quo. Rather than erecting barriers they are taking them down by shifting IT dollars to innovation.
As a result, new ideas are emerging. BYOD -- or Bring Your Own Device -- is enabling many to make the most of their personal compute power, at work. Cloud applications like Salesforce.com and Yammer enable businesses to select and deploy apps with very little IT resources and no infrastructure investments. Businesses using Microsoft Azure and other cloud platforms can quickly move workloads into the cloud - realizing new levels of agility for marginal cost.
That's the kind of IT we want. It's the kind of IT that every digital native entering the workforce is going to demand. It's what we expect.
Follow Andy Lark on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kiwilark