Managing mobile tech is the gift that keeps on giving IT headaches
Any tech that changes that fast and changes things that much is a problem too big for one solution
IT has been struggling with waves of user rebellion, increasing support costs, chaotic growth in the number and type of devices it has to support, data that leaves the data center to go live in the cloud, users who do the same – a whole menagerie of troublesome, expensive changes many IT veterans are told they have to accommodate whether they agree with the changes or not.
Analysts call it consumerization; many in IT call it chaos.
Not the end users, believe it or not.
Not the overly ambitious CIO with the background in business and body of technical knowledge barely deep make sure TCP/IP is spelled correctly without resorting to spell check.
It is the fault of the business itself. And time. And progress.
The same rule that ensures data-center servers get smaller, cheaper and more powerful every six- to 18 months does the same with end-user devices.
Smaller, more powerful, more able to be used by innovative employees to accomplish things they couldn't otherwise.
Cheap and simple enough for other employees to follow the lead of the first one, and to justify the change to departmental, then regional, then divisional managers.
Finally business-unit managers making cyclic changes in headcount, workflow, process and budgets glom onto the new tech to help make those changes, too.
Afterward, those "rogue" devices aren't rogue any more. Those toys – and the SaaS apps and cloud services managers at various levels have also bought on credit cards because it's easier to do something themselves than to ask IT to do it – are now an integral part of the business process.
IT can no longer deny them because IT isn't there to thwart business processes; IT exists to make business processes cheaper and easier. Removing devices or barring outside services because IT doesn't like them is like fixing a flat tire by ignoring the spare tire, stripping off the flat one, and driving away on the rim.
It will draw a lot of attention to your decision; it will not help passengers in the car get where they're going.
InfoWorld covers these issues and more in 10 Hard Truths IT has to Accept.
It offers more detailed guidance on how to manage mobiles and build a mobile strategy, and goes into more depth than you think there is in a how-to special report called the Mobile Management Deep Dive (PDF, free registration required).
Most of the end-user companies I talk to are the ones who present themselves as examples of how to get ahead of the curve, solve the problems with new technology others are still struggling to overcome and how to make everything faster, cheaper and more efficient through the (often miraculously trouble-free) use of new technology.
They're not always right in the decisions they made, or their opinions on how well their tactics will work for others.
Talking with self-promoters like that all the time tends to obscure the masses of companies that have not adapted as quickly – not because IT isn't willing or smart enough. Mostly they're limited by time, staff hours, budget and willingness of anyone in the company to change.
It's easy to forget the problems and wrinkles in adoption of new technology aren't ironed out just because the tech is in its second or third generation.
Mobile workstations (what else would you call a tablet or really smart phone?), cloud computing and SaaS all make fundamental changes in the way IT works within a company and how an entire company uses technology.
It takes longer than one product generation to master changes that ripple through large organizations at the pace of bureaucracy.
Managing mobile technology was a really hot topic in the press two years ago; now most of the content focuses on details, not the overall picture of how to structure IT or business units to make the best use of the technology.
Iworld's guide is kind of a Masters program in something you thought you knew because you already had a bachelors degree.
Mobile tech is like pretentiously soulful adages about rivers, though: You never hear twice the story about the guy who can't step in the same river twice. The first time it's a revelation; the second time it's trite; the third time it reminds you of something you have to do; the fourth time you realize it reminds you of things because some problems you have to keep solving over and over because the technology and the users that cause them change so fast that solving something once just isn't enough anymore.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.