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Four-step approach for harnessing tech populism

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Dating back to 1982 with the dawn of the PC era, employees have brought technology from home to work to help them get their jobs done faster and more effectively. The PC changed the way technical and creative people worked. Before long, the mobile phone unleashed an eager sales force.

Today, Web conferencing is powering new opportunities to engage prospects, and social software and smartphones—the iPhone in particular—are adding additional channels that simplify the way we communicate.

Enter the age of the technology populist. Home PCs, broadband, smartphones and an astounding variety of Internet services have permanently changed how technology enters our lives. In recent research we conducted on behalf of Forrester’s Information & Knowledge Management (I&KM) Council, one I&KM pro told us, “Our summer interns expect wikis and instant messaging on their smartphones, not a corporate PC and e-mail.”

Four forces have forever changed how employees acquire and deploy technology:

  • Internet and cloud service providers deliver new capabilities at a price most people can afford. IT can’t deploy new services at the same pace and scale.
  • The consumer electronics and broadband industries have put the power of a spaceship into the hands of every individual. Business hardware refresh cycles and employee provisioning lag behind personal device adoption cycles.
  • The need for employees to work closely with partners, customers and a remote work force pushes them to get creative with their tools. IT must support these efforts or be continually frustrated and at security risk.
  • Technology is increasingly specialized by job function and industry. IT can’t possibly keep up with all the specialized requirements of users.

With that in mind, here is a four-step approach to harnessing consumer IT concepts:

  • Identify interesting consumer technology. The consumer Internet has ever-expanding examples of new technology that works, and consumer devices are consistently offering significant new functionality. Pay attention to your employees, who will vote with their behavior to identify new technologies.
  • Prioritize technology based on business value. Not all consumer technology delivers value that the business can take advantage of. Does it replace an existing technology or enable a new behavior or outcome? Begin by getting business buy-in (this can come from an unlikely place, such as a finance group or internal marketing organization) to pilot programs. Look to create a community of end users.
  • Scale deployment as a business-led program. “Think big and start small” by framing a program of deployment even before the pilot. Fund deployments through business groups; look at internal teams for lower-risk rollouts. Be prepared to enhance the technology to meet the specific needs of new groups.
  • Drive continuous culture change. Make early adopters the change agents for their teams. Empower those change agents by embedding training and self-service deployment tools. Measure adoption, activity and impact; intervene when a technology stalls in a group.

Ted Schladler is a VP & Principal Analyst and Sheri McLeish is an Analyst at Forrester Research, where they serve I&KM professionals. The Forrester Leadership Boards are peer-to-peer networking communities that help IT executives advance personal and corporate knowledge and improve decision-making. To download a free copy of related research and learn more about the I&KM Council, please visit here.


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