One of the themes of my research has been how information worker adoption of technology in general, and collaboration technology specifically, affects IT decision-making. Inevitably, this has led me down the path of studying the phenomenon of rank-and-file employees provisioning their own technology outside the auspices of IT – a phenomenon Forrester labels Technology Populism (though I won’t kick if you want to call it “consumerization of IT”). Very shortly, I’ll be publishing a report that shows not only is Technology Populism a reality, but that it is affecting how technology is officially adopted by businesses. What our data shows is that sizable portions of the information workforce played a role in the selection of their desktop computer (13%), laptop computer (33%) and smartphones (66%). This got me thinking about what this means for technology decision-making in business.
We at Forrester often talk about the transition of IT to BT (Business Technology) – which is our shorthand for talking about lines of business taking a central role in the selection and management of technology. It reflects a need for technology decisions to be oriented toward business outcomes and for business leaders to have greater say in picking the tools their employees use. But this is still a high-level story: it is a tale of executives picking technology for the end user. Technology Populism is specifically about end users taking on this role; and that businesses are seeing benefits (re: cost savings) in allowing this suggests that there may be another concept here beyond IT to BT.
In the fanfare surrounding Microsoft’s unveiling of Office and SharePoint 2010, the co-authoring capability Microsoft is offering in OneNote, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel stood out. Put simply, co-authoring is the ability of multiple people to work synchronously on a document. Microsoft has built a number of features to make real-time editing work: notification of who is working on the document and integration with OCS to facilitate conversations; locking of sections to editing; and a “save to share” feature that reconciles changes between editors after they’ve finished, to name a few. However, lost in this talk of real-time document collaboration is a more basic need that I believe Microsoft is actually solving (hinted at in the title of this post).