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Consumerizing IT, KM and Enterprise Search

This article appears in the issue June 2012 [Volume 21, Issue 6]
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Over the last 30 years, I have worked in client organizations where there was a Hatfield and McCoy vibe. The Hatfields were professionals with degrees in business, journalism and administration. The McCoys were the programmers, system administrators and certified technology consultants.

Between those two feuding camps, new ideas were often riddled with rhetorical bullets. The antagonism impaired enterprisewise efforts to streamline work processes. Another consequence was the "stealth effect," in which a professional purchases a piece of hardware or software not officially supported by the organization's information technology unit. Often management is unaware that routine security precautions are tossed out the window when a new gizmo like an Apple iPad is used for business purposes.

In the U.S. government, the battle lines have created some problems. At one major U.S. government agency, a law enforcement officer cannot see a comprehensive report on a person of interest from databases within the officer's own agency. The reason is that fiefdoms exist, and the information technology units are unable to tap another unit's data. Commercial enterprises also fall victim to the cultural animosity between what one of my colleagues calls "the suits and the engineers."

Bring your own device

Where does consumerization fit into the technical war fighting? My view is that consumerization is bigger than either the Hatfield clan or the McCoys. A new acronym has entered some workplaces: BYOD (bring your own device). The idea is that a person working at a financial institution, government contractor or university will use his or her own mobile phone, laptop and tablet computer. As one major bank in New York learned, interns and new hires routinely show up laden with gizmos. As I write this, the financial institution is trying to develop a policy that accommodates those devices without running afoul of the spider web of rules and regulations regarding the institution's client activities.

At one national lab, visitors must hand over personal devices. The method seemed to work until I saw a person making a telephone call on a beetle-shaped mobile phone, weighing  0.176 pound. If you want to see the lineup of mini-devices that might pass through security without scrutiny, go to http://goo.gl/gUw9j.

Smart phones are ubiquitous. The oversized Samsung Android devices fall between an iPhone and an iPad in size. Regardless of size, mobile smart phones are the functional equivalent of many desktop computers. But the more significant shift in BYOD is the uptake of the Apple iPad as a computing device. One organization taking aggressive measures to stay in step with employees' interest in consumerized computing devices is General Electric.

Apple and GE

Apple, normally a secretive outfit, posted an interesting case study on its Web site. "GE: Reinventing Mobility" explains that "GE illuminates the potential of in-house iPad and iPhone apps." It states, "GE is one of the world's largest technology companies, with business units devoted to aviation, clean energy, financial services, media and healthcare technology, to name a few. As the company imagines, develops and builds technologies that transform the way we live, it's channeling the equally transformational power of iPad, iPhone and in-house apps to generate new business possibilities."

General Electric is among the most progressive commercial enterprises. Its approach embraces consumerization of information technology. But other companies resist the shift from traditional information technology approaches. With technology units under attack from users who want Google-like speed and Apple-like ease of use, the BYOD movement seems to be one of the major characteristics in enterprise information access.

Consumerization is not about a few new hires toting an Android or Apple mobile phone to work, according to an article (at the website cultofmac.com) entitled "Think IT Consumerization Is About  iPads and iPhones? If So, You're Missing the Point." The article makes this observation: "The real story is that movement may have started out with people taking their iPads to work and checking Twitter throughout the workday, but it has become something much, much greater. At heart, this movement isn't so much about devices, social networks or cloud services-it's about how these technologies have changed the relationship that people have with technology. Apple and other companies have made most people comfortable with technology and shown them an experience of solutions that just work."

SAP's mobile app

Mainstream enterprise solution vendors are moving more quickly than some organizations. One example is SAP (sap.com) BusinessObjects. In the consumerization of information technology, SAP is taking steps to help minimize the types of problems more traditional enterprise software presents. In 2011, SAP BusinessObjects released the fourth major version of its SAP BusinessObjects Mobile app.

The app delivers business intelligence reports, metrics and near real-time data to an iPad, and it provides a search function. Navigation requires a finger tap. The app permits working with data whether the device is connected to a network or offline. SAP's engineers have implemented enhanced visualizations that make data access more intuitive. SAP also offers a number of iPad apps via the iTunes store.

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