Consumerization 1.0 was "we don't need IT." Today, we need IT to bridge the gap between consumer and business tech.
It's also because of the practical apps on the device. A cloud-based browser app shows the technician's appointments. A routing app called CoPilot provides audio directions integrated with those appointments -- the Note's screen is blacked out while the vehicle's moving to keep the driver focused on the road. There's even an augmented reality app that links to the Dish satellite in orbit and uses the Note's camera to show a virtual image of the dish on a roof -- handy for explaining to a new customer why a dish can't go in a certain place on the roof, say if the line of sight to the satellite is blocked by a tree.
The apps are all HTML5 browser-based, and critical ones such as the appointment calendar work offline, since wireless connectivity can be spotty. The browser approach also lets Dish contractors with their own devices access apps such as job assignments. Even the gadget's case is a business/consumer hybrid -- a standard Otter Box design customized with the Dish brand's distinctive red color.
Dish's Galaxy Notes sport consumery hardware and useful apps.
Not a consumer app free-for-all Smart IT leaders now understand that consumer tech will drive the pace of change and that business IT must be humble enough to learn from what employees use. "Isn't it incredible that it took Dropbox to get all of us thinking about that?" says Avnet CIO Steve Phillips, referring to simple online file sharing. "There's a real need for that file-sharing capability."
But being open-minded doesn't mean it's a consumer app free-for-all. Avnet, a $26 billion-a-year electronics distributor, blocks employee access to the consumer version of Dropbox, for example. But having seen the employee demand for simple file sharing, Avnet now gives employees access to the enterprise-friendly (i.e., auditable) Box service. (Dropbox has its own enterprise version, with administrative controls and audit features.)
Think of Box, Dropbox, and other consumer-to-business application suppliers as filling the "app gap," says Wells Fargo software analyst Jason Maynard.
In that gap is all the unstructured, everyday work employees do that falls outside of conventional ERP, CRM, HR, and supply chain management applications. The people who do those jobs are the ones who really understand how the work gets done, and it's up to IT to give them room to experiment with new tools to help them do that work. Do they need Skype to talk with certain customers? A screen-sharing app like Screenhero? A tablet or smartphone?
Avnet also was an early adopter of bring your own device five years ago, giving employees a stipend to buy their own phone and service contracts. The biggest benefit has been financial: a 30 percent drop in cellphone costs. The savings came from setting "hard but reasonable" limits on data plans, Phillips says, and ending the orphan phones that stay on the bill after employees leave the company or stop using them. The BYOD program also cut IT support and repair costs, since employees own the phones but also are responsible for them if they break.
An intangible benefit of the program is that Avnet now has a more engaged and mobile workforce, while employees like having a choice of smartphones. Back in 2008, about 700 Avnet employees had company-issued smartphones, all of them BlackBerrys used mostly for email. Today, Avnet has about 7,000 company-managed smartphones, of which only 1,000 are BlackBerrys, and those devices access not only email, but also Concur expense reports, Workday HR apps, and some custom-built apps for order management and shipping as well as price and availability lookup. Avnet also provides some custom smartphone apps for its sales teams.
Avnet will ban consumer apps for two reasons: security (to keep confidential data from leaving the company) and bandwidth (which is why it blocks most streaming video from its network). But again, Avnet IT must keep an open mind to new application demands. The latest is Skype, for which Avnet opened up access because employees made a strong business case for it -- certain clients want to talk via Skype. "This consumerization of IT and the grassroots feel of 'here's a useful application' -- that's something to be encouraged, not repressed," Phillips says.
Speed means sharing control Celestica's employees in 18 locations worldwide, mostly in Asia, use the enterprise version of Google Apps for email and collaboration. How can a factory team in Malaysia share its success with new soldering techniques with a team in Spain, given the language barriers? Google Translate, a consumer tool built into Google Apps. "Soon people who had never talked with each other were solving problems," CIO Gendron says.
Celestica's IT teams have developed their own apps on the Google platform, like one for conference room registration and another that automated several steps for six top executives to sign off on quarterly results. The alternative was to buy those apps off the shelf, but every time you do that "you hear cha-ching, cha-ching," Gendron says.
Celestica's next step is to let tech-savvy employees build some of their own applications using a development framework called OrangeScape that sits on top of Google Apps, in a process closer to configuration than coding. For governance, a committee meets as needed to monitor apps and their use, but the bias is toward change. "When I think of Google, I think of speed," Gendron says.
InformationWeek Must Reads Oct. 21, 2014InformationWeek's new Must Reads is a compendium of our best recent coverage of digital strategy. Learn why you should learn to embrace DevOps, how to avoid roadblocks for digital projects, what the five steps to API management are, and more.