Shortly after the launch of Apple's iPhone, corporate Blackberry users started experimenting with the iPhone, and it didn't take long before we began seeing office workers and executives juggling two phones - the Blackberry because they had to and the iPhone because they wanted to.
Blackberry was focused on the corporate market and they designed the product for corporate communication and email systems. This way, every device would be under the control of the IT department.
Apple changed that with a consumer product so appealing and useful, thanks to a rapidly growing iPhone app store, that employees at every level were increasingly bringing their personal devices to work. This soon to be global trend would come to be known as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and it caught IT departments by surprise as they scrambled to get this growing "problem" under control.
It took some time, but IT departments found ways to secure employee smartphones and tablets. They eventually turned this problem into an opportunity. For example, a major financial services company used to supply thousands of Blackberrys to their employees, now their employees bring their own smartphone, as well as their own tablets - which has become a laptop replacement - saving the company millions.
Anticipatory Organizations™ don't wait for problems to happen, they use Hard Trends to predict problems before they happen and pre-solve them. In this case the wearable revolution is now off to a big start and it will grow rapidly thanks to Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and a host of other companies that are now releasing new products as fast as they can in an effort to lead the revolution. The predictable result will be the WYOD (wear your own device) trend and this will either be another problem for IT Departments if they wait for it to happen and then react to it. It could also be a big opportunity if they anticipate WYOD so they can both see and shape the opportunity right from the start.
Too many business leaders today are assuming that wearable technology is too new--and that it doesn't pose a serious threat now. They assume that they "have time" and that they'll "deal with it later."
They're wrong. Sales in wearable technology, including smart watches, smart wristbands, and mush more is exploding. In addition, a recent survey found that 71% of 16 to 24 year olds want to own some sort of wearable technology.
That means that you will soon have an influx of young employees who will think nothing of integrating their daily business and personal tasks with their smart watch or other high-tech wearable. As our experiences with personal devices in the workplace have taught us, you are fighting a losing battle if your goal is to prevent employees from using their wearables in the workplace.
Rather than fight this Hard Trend, I strongly urge businesses to embrace the technology in advance, to be preactive. Develop a strategy that balances considerations of convenience and security. Define the value of using wearables in business now before your competition does. After all, wearable devices can provide users with instant access to important data; they can increase mobility, safety, and productivity; and they can offer you tracking capabilities for employees who are in the field.
However, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't be somewhat concerned about wearables in the workplace. Think about it: What exactly will employees who wear the next version of smart glasses record and share? And how can you be sure that employees won't use their smart watches to record details about a new product launch or other proprietary information? As new technologies are developed, the risks will grow and the gadgets will be harder to monitor and even recognize as gadgets. That's why you need to get ahead of this trend now.
Just like BYOD, WYOD opens your business up to risks. But this is a potential problem that you can see in advance, so you can solve it in advance. You should revisit your BYOD policy and incorporate guidelines for WYOD. Be thorough, be specific, and hold people accountable for abiding by the rules.
This is not an issue that only concerns your IT staff. It is an organizational issue, and every person, from the top down should play a role in ensuring that these devices benefit, rather than expose, your business. Exercise caution, but don't run from this exciting new technology. Take advantage of it.
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