August 06, 2012, 2:11 PM — When Paul Caris, CIO at global law firm Eversheds, decided to equip the firm's lawyers with iPads, he met with a lot of resistance.
"If I had listened to anybody along the way I wouldn't have done it," he says.
"My own team was trying to tell me it was a folly. They were rolling out the usual excuses about security and supportability."
Undeterred, Caris initially piloted 15 iPads and didn't look back.
Two years later, 500 of the firm's fee-earners have iPads, all equipped with full access to their emails, calendar and a cloud-based archiving system.
Deploying the software cost nothing. The users provide their own support, through an intranet forum that allows them to collaborate on best practice and share fixes.
Is Caris a new breed of CIO? Traditionally the relationship between IT and the business has always been a tricky one of give-and-take.
But the time when IT was regarded as an expensive drain on the business has been replaced by an acceptance that IT can bring benefits to the business in terms of cost-savings, productivity gains and a competitive edge.
If Caris's example is anything to go by, the relationship between IT and the business could be changing yet again, with the CIO taking a very different approach to business demands.
The IT landscape in most businesses already looks very different from five years ago.
Applications and storage are gradually moving to the cloud, and software-as-a-service providers are taking away some of the pain of day-to-day management.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the IT function has been left twiddling its thumbs.
Many would say they are being expected to do more with less, but the focus of its energies may be gradually shifting.
What is the likely impact of this slow shift?
Keith Wallington, chief customer officer of email management firm Mimecast, believes it will initiate a different approach to data.
"IT people are starting to think more about the information that flows through the business and how best to surface it and make it useful to their staff," he says.
Modern organisations, the argument goes, are experiencing a deluge of data, both structured and structured.
It's in Excel spreadsheets, ERP systems, Word documents, PowerPoint slides, email and social media.
There is a sea of data in most organisations, much of it irrelevant, out-of-date or contradictory, but within that sea there are pockets of valuable data that, retrieved and analysed properly, could give businesses insights that will enable them to be much more agile and responsive to changing demands.