A funny thing happened while we in IT were focused on ITIL, data center consolidation and standardization. The business went shopping for better technology solutions. We’ve been their go-to department for technology since the mainframe days and have been doing what they asked. When they wanted higher SLAs we invested in high availability solutions. When they asked for greater flexibility we empowered them with client-server, application servers and now virtual machines. All the while they have relentlessly badgered us for lower costs and greater efficiencies. And we’ve given it to them. And until recently, they seemed satisfied. Or so we thought.
Sure, we’ve tolerated the occasional SaaS application here and there. We’ve let them bring in Macs (just not too many of them) and we’ve even supported their pesky smart phones. But each time they came running to us for assistance when the technical support need grew too great.
I spoke to the IT leadership team at a major automotive manufacturer last week on the topic of empowerment. The group consisted of the CIO, security and compliance professionals, business strategy, HR representatives, and other IT managers in charge of mobility, social computing, innovation, and application development initiatives. At Forrester, we talk about empowerment in terms of the rising imbalance between enabling technology tools we have in our personal lives and those we have in the workplace. Think mobile, social, cloud, and consumer video tools. Our data indicates that almost 51% of information workers now believe they have better technology at home than they have at work. And 37% are using these personal tools get real work done.
At least anecdotally, the gap between consumer technology change and IT’s ability to assimilate those technologies into the workplace looks to be widening. A recent report recently highlighted this gap, explaining that in one government agency, it takes 18 to 24 months to roll out a single new IT system, while it took only 24 months to invent the iPhone.
Clearly IT budgets will never keep up with private investments in technology innovation. But it’s not all about money. What else is causing the impedance mismatch between personal/home and workplace technologies? A few comments from my audience highlight the complexities our corporate IT departments face in this age of empowerment:
Later this month, Bank of America will roll out a mobile payments trial to its employees in the New York metropolitan market. One of the primary goals of the pilot is to understand the user experience expectations of potential mobile payments customers, according to Michael Upton, Bank of America’s executive leading the initiative. The trial involves outfitting users’ phones with a microSD card that supports contactless payments based on near field communications (NFC) technology.
This is not the first large trial of contactless payments. Citi, Chase, and other large US banks have invested millions of dollars in trials of NFC programs launched by MasterCard and Visa. These efforts, though, have relied primarily on chips embedded in the user’s credit or debit card. Citi earlier this year also introduced an NFC sticker that users can apply to their mobile phones, alleviating the need for a physical card. The Bank of America pilot takes this a step further by including a mobile wallet application that can support multiple payment cards. Users could, for example, make contactless payments from their Bank of America, Citi, Chase, and American Express accounts all through a single mobile app.