Our Berlin Wall

Berlin WallIt seems the consumerization of the enterprise is over. In this article Owen Thomas, reporting that oil giant Shell is to allow its 135,000 employees to bring their own devices, declares the debate over. For him, at least, it’s no longer an interesting discussion, “What’s next?” he aks.

Well let’s just hold on a second. This is, after all, a momentous occasion. Traditional beliefs and customs are tumbling down like dominos. I, for one, would like to stop, contemplate and enjoy this revolutionary milestone.

The Revolution

First, consider the history. Over the past decade, approaches such as User Experience Design (UX), Agile Development and the growth of cloud based products created a two tier system. Those businesses that embraced these innovations were able to experience freedom and a superior experience to those that were stuck using the old enterprise applications. Like East and West Germany the advancements in mobile and improved user experience became the illegal TV sets picking up Western TV shows. Where those without watched enviously as those with gorged themselves on the spoils of a decadent capitalist lifestyle.

We sat at our desks looking at the depressing blue/grey of an SAP transaction while we dreamt of cute kittens on Youtube or poking long forgotten friends on Facebook. Allowing employees to bring their own mobile devices to the office seemed like a small concession to keep the masses happy. But then they began to take photos of their colleagues over lunch and published amusing edits on Flickr. Before long they were spending more and more time updating statuses (or is that statii?) and tending to their virtual farm animals.

Some even learned how to connect these devices, against IT policy, to collect work email. They no longer needed to hide the device when the boss walked in, they could now claim to be checking the latest sales figures or sending out a contract. Like the East German Police, there were pockets of resistance. Some tried to stop this from happening but they soon realised the cost of doing so was unacceptable. Powerless to stop the crowd they just stepped aside and let The Wall come down.

Lessons From History

Bring Your Own Device, despite its challenges, is an important step forward in improving the way we work. This is about making work easier for people, giving them access to the tools they need in a package they are familiar with is a huge step forward. Instead of resisting for so long, many organizations would have been better off investing in making it work. Instead, they spent their time writing IT policy in an attempt to prevent it.

And what’s next? We already have ‘illegal’ software as a service as the next revolution. Once employees can decide for themselves, how far will the revolution go?

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Categories: Workplace Reality

Author:Craig J Willis

Craig Willis is a co-founder at http://www.the-skore.com, a project setup to develop simple visual tools for helping teams work together more efficiently. The project is focused on improving the way agile development teams reach a common understanding on product requirements. He currently advises several startups on growth strategy, social media marketing and product development. He blogs at http://humanautomation.wordpress.com

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