The arrival of the new, colourful Apple iPhone 5C and super-fast 5S may have excited consumers, but for many IT professionals the new handsets simply add to the device management headache brought on by the ‘bring your own’ trend.
Since the introduction of the smartphone, businesses worldwide have seen workers introduce new devices and applications on a regular basis because employees, dissatisfied with existing enterprise technology take it upon themselves to decide how they want to work.
Aside from driving a fundamental change in how businesses provision and manage technology, this shift is changing both the role and skill set of IT professionals. Increasingly, IT teams are challenged with securing a technology portfolio – and the corporate data used across it – that is often outside their expertise, control, and even their view.
Despite the extra challenges and the potential security risks presented by ‘bring your own’, the majority of IT professionals have embraced user-led technology adoption, rather than try to block it. This change in attitude suggests that IT professionals are moving away from the role of gatekeeper to take on the part of trusted advisor and partner.
While this shift is positive, it is not without its challenges. Many of the traditional approaches to user management, provisioning and security do not work in today’s IT environment.
Striking The Right Balance
Appeasing security and control fears while still providing employees with access to the devices and applications they desire is a difficult balance to strike. Giving staff free reign to use whatever they like is not an option, and neither is introducing a blanket ban.
Rather than locking down on employee-introduced devices and applications, IT professionals would be well advised to focus on managing users – a shift to ensure that no matter where or how employees are using devices and data, policies and security considerations are applied uniformly.
Granting staff seamless access to critical applications, and managing these connections closely, is essential to striking the right balance between guaranteeing the security of confidential data and keeping workers happy. IT professionals should embrace cloud management and ‘Identity-as-a-service’ (IDaaS) solutions that centralise management and control while providing an alternative to the ad-hoc process of procuring, configuring, and deploying cloud applications into a business environment as a first step to create this balance.
IT professionals have traditionally acted as a technology broker, of sorts, between the company and its workforce. This role is being made somewhat redundant by employees who are making decisions for themselves about what technology they want to use. As a worker’s relationship with the IT department changes, IT professionals must take on the role of trusted advisers if they are to meet the expectations of tomorrow’s workforce.
To make this shift to business partner and advisor, IT professionals will need to build on their existing skill set so they can meet the demands of evolving technologies, while continuing to provide workers with the advice they need.
This need for the IT department to ‘evolve’ is underlined by a recent Forrester report, which stated that 90% of CIOs believe that central IT departments will not exist by 2020. As more businesses turn to external ‘as-a-service’ resources, IT professionals could find that they become embedded within business units, such as marketing, product development and customer service.
IT support may also see some significant changes. With workers able to diagnose and resolve many low-level IT problems for themselves through automatic support systems, we may find some basic-level support roles are replaced. In fact, this is a trend we are already seeing today, with many workers turning to the web to find solutions to their IT problems.
As this and the broader ‘bring your own’ trend develops, the IT professional’s role as we know it will be transformed. Although this may sound daunting, this evolution has the potential to make the role of the IT professional even more important than it is today, albeit a slightly different role to the one many of us recognise.