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End User 2.0: When Employees Have All The Answers

End users know what tech they want. IT must adapt to that reality--and know where to draw the line.

IT pros were once the alpha end users, on the leading edge of innovation and early adoption. You could count on the IT department to always be the first to explore a new gadget or software tool, starting way back with the first PCs and continuing up to the BlackBerry. We were always playing with the latest beta, the newest option, even that Internet thingy.

No more. IT organizations have evolved away from that kind of hotbed of user-driven innovation and curiosity and morphed into having a more inward focus, more likely to say "no" than "wow."

Too harsh? Look around and ask how willing and able most IT organizations are to try out a new idea, device, or application that bubbles up from the field, and how quickly they can put it in place. And consider the results of our latest InformationWeek Analytics survey, titled End User 2.0, for some surprising results.

For example, there's no question that instant messaging is pervasive in our society, yet it's been adopted by only 44% of companies for their internal use. A mere 18% regularly use IM for external use. A larger percentage of companies have officially rejected this means of communication.

That same type of resistance extends to support of new devices. No surprise that 98% of our survey respondents' organizations support Windows desktops and laptops, whether company-provided or not. However, support for any other type of device drops quickly after that, with only the BlackBerry supported by more than half of organizations. IT teams expect the PC to dominate as the key tool for knowledge workers.

In one sense, companies back IT into this corner. Policies around regulatory compliance, reliability, budget approvals, and support all give IT teams reasons to resist technology driven by end users. "Our staff likes to try new technology but then expects it to be supported almost instantly," says Bill Streahle, network manager for National Financial Partners. "They don't understand the challenges of enterprise IT support."

Yet IT needs to evolve, even as it draws the line on some end user demands. The consumerization of technology, the fact that employees are increasingly tech-savvy, and the rise of cloud computing all work against highly centralized and highly controlled IT. End users are ready to spend some of their department's money on some netbooks and a cloud app to get what they think they need to do their jobs.

InformationWeek: September 6, 2010 Issue To read the rest of the article, download a free PDF of InformationWeek magazine
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How IT Can Cope

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  • The full data set, inlcuding survey results on smarthone strategy and adoption, end user security practices, and more
  • Additonal analysis from Michael Healey on strategies for driving end user innovation

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