Apr 13, 2012
In their personal lives, business users are enjoying a technology renaissance that continues to deliver simple, elegant and often innovative technology products. Then they come to work expecting the same experience. To meet those expectations, IT leaders should understand and deliver capabilities that engage each key persona of their users, enabling a given role in the way they actually perform their job. But it shouldn’t stop there. The real trick is envisioning how emerging technologies and new form factors can improve how work actually gets done. Enterprise users are clamoring for mobile and social enablement – collaboration, information and insight wherever, whenever. They’re looking to leave behind the legacy “point, click, type” world for one of “touch, swipe, talk and gesture,” and they won’t hesitate to go around central IT to get the capabilities they need. The CIO must envision the digital future and deliver the empowered present.
User empowerment builds on this reality, embodying the tenets of user engagement and embracing free-market principles that are becoming a central feature of today’s IT environment1. Said another way, it reflects the democratization of corporate technology.
End users have plenty of opportunities to bypass IT and procure off-the-shelf or low/no-code solutions that are just good enough to meet their needs. Through mobile and desktop application (app) stores, cloud-based marketplaces and rapid development and deployment platforms, business stakeholders are one swipe of the corporate credit card away from procuring rogue “almost-enterprise” applications to fulfill their unmet needs. As a result, CIOs should consider adopting a design-led, user-centric approach to new application development, while also accepting the inevitability of business users directly sourcing apps. BYOA (bring your own application) will likely become part of many organizations’ solution footprints.
These changes should not be chalked up to nefarious motivations among empowered users. They simply represent market dynamics at play. Users expect intuitive, dynamic solutions now, and corporate IT has historically focused on underlying architecture and completeness of solutions – the foundation and the plumbing, not the decor. IT’s success in this area is part of the challenge: while process automation has been generally satisfied, end users have begun to expect something more. In general, they want more than utility, they want elegance – and they are typically not afraid to tap into any channel at their disposal to get it.
CIOs can use this movement to their advantage, but it may require some uncomfortable change. For starters, creative and user experience (UX) talent with a deep understanding of human behavior will likely be required as a core competency. Agile and Scrum delivery capabilities will complement heavier methodologies, supporting rapid prototyping and a design-led iterative approach. Broad integration, security and data management services should be developed – and marketed – along with proactive guidance for business users on how central IT can help in this new user-empowered world. Think service-oriented architecture – not only in the technology stack, but also in how business capabilities are described.
Without succeeding in this shift, a CIO may be treated as an obstacle or viewed as irrelevant to the business vision. That’s why it’s important for CIOs to guide the business through the inevitable disruption of technology innovations, and to be seen as co-conspirators by their empowered users, enabling – and accelerating – the upward journey.
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