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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Technology; Lack of understanding begets lack of growth

Today’s disruptive technology trends are irreversibly changing how we do business from botha workforce and enterprise perspective. 

Always-on connectivity, widespread use of consumer technology, highly pressured CIOs and ever increasing demands on IT are altering the way employees work and businesses run.

According to Gartner’s Strategic Planning Assumption, 40 per centor more of enterprise work will be "non-routine" by 2015, this is up 25 per cent from 2010.[1]For businesses, a failure to recognise and understand these changes is leading not only to increasing IT security challenges, but also missed opportunities for growth.

The Evolving Workforce and Workplace
As the boundaries continue to blur between work and home life, less than two thirds of employees globally feel that they can get their work completed within a traditional 9-5 schedule[2]. Constant connectivity, multiple stakeholders and global business demands are all leading to an “always-on” mentality. This 24/7 connectivity has thus changed the way business is done, and is redefining the concept of “business as usual.” The modern employee expects to be measured and managed on effective output, not hours served behind a desk[3], which indicates a significant shift towards a flexible working model. Research[4] also shows that there is a positive correlation between a flexible, outputs-based working model and worker morale.

To meet business demands and minimise time wasted with poorly functioning technology, employees not only require, but are demanding devices that can stand up to an anytime, anywhere environment. 

At the same time, the rise of consumer technology and the proliferation of “smart” mobile consumer devices have turned employees into technology savvy end users with high expectations of the technology and devices they use in the workplace. If businesses are not able to provide suitable devices and the right applications from which employees can work, the overwhelming majority are likely to fall back on their personal devices and unsecure technology simply to get the job done.

For CIOs, this means providing employees with the right tools to do the job is no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessary part of a productive workforce and essential for the future health and growth of their businesses. Technology needs to enable employees to work efficiently according to their individual demands. If the right technology is not provided, research[5] has shown that employees will take matters into their own hands.

Understanding the Risk
With recent economic conditions and the constantly mounting pressure on CIOs, somebusinessesare takinga ‘wait and see’ approach to managing evolving workforce and technology demands. Whileattempting to focus on short term issues, the risk of ignoring long term trends could be dire for businesses.

By not managing the use of consumer devices, new platforms and services in the workplace, businesses are risking data loss and opening themselves up to significant security threats. In fact, 50 per cent of businesses with a BYOD policy admitted suffering data loss.[6]

Equally as bad is an overzealous, inflexible IT policy that, not only hinders productivity, but also encourages employees to seek unsecure alternatives simply to get around the difficulties posed by the structure. In a recent study by Fortinet[7], 1/3 of workers admitted to either breaking or being willing to break corporate policy to use personal devices, proving that policy, on its own, is an ineffective form of protection.

There is also a significant human capital risk to businesses which underestimate the importance of device desirability and that do not offer employees attractive and efficient technology choices. As well as inhibiting productivity, research shows that poor workplace technology and poor IT service quality can significantly damage employee motivation and morale. There is also evidence that prospective employees will view device options when evaluating potential employers to filter out backward “dinosaur” businesses[8].

The message to businesses is clear: understanding technology demands of the workforce is vital for the long-term growth of businesses. It can both directly and indirectly impact an organisation’s bottom line. Instead of ignoring these trends and developments, businesses have the opportunity to embrace them and capitalise on the benefits they afford.

Orchestrating the Right Solution
But how? Ultimately, it is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution. IT policies and employee choice in technology needs to be orchestrated within clear parameters specified by an organisation to achieve growth and efficiencies as well as protect assets.

For example, organisations might consider a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy if they are able to invest in security solutions as well as mobile device management solutions. Another option could be to invest in a variety of device platforms, such as tablets and ultrabooks, that are highly securable and manageable which can then be provisioned to employees based on preference and job role.

By giving employees the right tools, companies encourage increased productivity resulting in greater profitability, higher staff retention and improved recruitment. The new generation of enterprise grade devices combines the desirability of consumer devices with the security and manageability of enterprise hardware and, by doing so, meets both the demands of the employee and the CIO.
The critical message to businesses is to get their heads out of the sand. The impact of today’s technology trends is being felt today and, if ignored, the ramifications in the future could be disastrous.

*opinion submitted by Omolaraeni Olaosebikan, a staff of The Quadrant Company
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