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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:
This week was a reconfirmation that information management professionals are facing a perfect storm. Two years ago, we wrote on a topic we call Technology Populism that looked at both the business opportunities and threats presented by ubiquitous information sharing tools inside and outside corporate networks. In a nutshell, we argued that information management professionals would face: employees demanding access to corporate systems using their consumer devices; cloud-based collaboration software services that offer hard-to-beat economics; and increased complexity in managing the trust, integrity, and risk associated with information on corporate networks. Since then all three have proven valid trends. Consider three IT pros I spoke with last week at a Novell customer panel. They represented a major university, a hospital, and a law enforcement agency.
The university IT pro just gave in to demand for peer-to-peer file sharing. After his multi-year fight against student use of peer-to-peer file sharing, this IT pro finally succumbed to student demand. He's already using Google Apps for student email. Why? He couldn't compete with free.
The hospital IT pro already plans to support iPads for doctors. Reacting to demand from young doctors, he's in planning stages to support hospital apps on Apple's iPad (Wow! It's only been out for a month, right?). Unlike the university IT pro, the compelling economics Google presented directly to his team for mail and productivity were not enough to convince him the service was ready for hospital staff. What's he waiting for? More examples of other HIPAA-regulated organizations using these services.
It’s an understatement to say companies are drowning in digital information. Since the death of the floppy disk and the rise of networked computing, barriers to creating and sharing information have steadily come down. Combined with increased digitization paper-laden business processes, most companies find themselves struggling to harness the volume and diversity of information on their networks for business benefit. What’s startling is just how little progress we've made in maximizing the value and minimizing risks associated with the digital content and data we collect.
Any discussion of information governance always brings me back to this depressing little anecdote:
"Monday September 8, 2008, is a day that the executives at United Airlines will remember. The company’s stock fell 76 percent to $3 by 11:08 a.m. when trading was halted. The decline was not the result of a pending acquisition or recent financial results announced by the company. Instead, an article that said “UAL Declares Bankruptcy” appeared on the South Florida Sun Sentinel Web site that Sunday, got picked up by Google News, and then quickly summarized and republished to Bloomberg by a reporter tasked with summarizing stories about companies in distress. Then the trading began and the stock collapsed. The problem: the article was from 2002, not 2008."
For the past six months my team, and Forrester at large, has invested a lot of time in better understanding the different roles we serve with our research. On my team alone, we interviewed over 25 clients across industries and geographies about their careers, interests, aspirations, projects they work on, and who they work with. Having been an avid reader of Forrester’s research reports prior to joining the company in 2005, this was an interesting exercise. Why? Because when you manage technology programs inside a company, it’s very easy to assume that the rest of the world looks the same as it does within the four walls for of your organization. In fact, when it comes to information and knowledge management, there’s a great deal of difference across companies.
We spoke with a broad set of people including what I’d call IT business relationship managers, IT solution architects, library and information specialists, and records and retention management professionals. All of these people are involved in running or participating in initiatives involving content management, collaboration, search tools, portals, and enterprise 2.0 technologies. Among others, the themes that stuck out were:
I had the pleasure to sit down with Steve Ballmer for an interview at the Microsoft SharePoint conference in Las Vegas this week. My research team at Forrester spends a lot of time thinking, researching, and writing about the future of information work. So getting Steve’s view on SharePoint’s decade-long evolution from a basic document sharing application to a broad platform for rapid application development, intranet and internet sites, content management, search, social computing, and composite applications, was something I couldn’t pass up.
Unfortunately, pre-taped interviews are like a ball of pizza dough. They start life with different ingredients, get molded into interesting shapes through the discussion, until they’re eventually pounded and rolled out by communications professionals into something utterly flat and lifeless. This is not a ding on Microsoft, Forrester has its share of communications pros with flour on their hands too. For the video version, click here. But let’s consider several highlights that did and didn’t make the video. Consider that Steve:
At Forrester, we're always looking for new ways to engage with our readers. Most often, our written research into workplace trends and technologies is the catalyst for this engagement. But we're also coming to realize that the way Information Management professionals consume research is changing.
For better or worse, you have more devices, more tools for connecting with others, more information, and less time to sort through it all. As a result, we're now offering Forrester podcasts for information management professionals via this blog and iTunes. While an admittedly traditional analyst like myself still considers Forrester’s rich data and reports to be the "gold standard" of our research investments, we're committed to helping clients fit their use of research into their busy schedules. To this end:
There's nothing like an economic downturn to catalyze change in information management (IM) strategies. Someone asked me recently, "Isn't information management a discretionary spend that will likely get cut in an economic downturn?" He cited the fact that tools for collaboration, content, and business intelligence are traditionally difficult to financially justify, "even when times are good." He's right about the latter—most Forrester clients struggle with assigning specific financial value to information management investments. In fact, as Forrester learned recently, many companies can't even tell you what it costs them to run their own email. Similarly, over 90% of information management professionals we surveyed recently reported having no way to measure whether employees are even using their corporate portals, let alone realizing financial benefits from them. Yet I doubt the measurement difficulties will necessarily lead to prolonged decreases in investment overall. Two reasons:
So before my flight West today, I picked up the recent Jeff Howe book Crowdsourcing. I was looking for a little inspiration for a speech I'm giving at Forrester's Business & Technology Leadership Forum on a trend we call "Technology Populism." Like other edgy, Web 2.0-ey books of our era (Groundswell, Wisdom of Crowds, Tipping Point, The Long Tail, and many others), Crowdsourcing is packed with examples of how companies are leveraging networks of people on the Internet to innovate, collaborate, disrupt business models, and solve real business problems. All great stuff.
Then I land and my phone rings. It's a reporter who's asks me about the latest United Airlines story. Since I'm not yet monitoring news feeds from several thousand feet, I say "What story?" He explains that at 1am on Sunday of this week a story with the headline "UAL Files for Bankruptcy" appeared on the "most popular" list of the Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper Web site. It then got picked up by Google News, summarized by a securities analyst, and United Airlines stock proceeded to tank by 75%. The problem: the story was from 2002.