James Mucklow, IT expert at PA Consulting Group, gives his personal take on John Harris’ (IT vice-president, GlaxoSmithKine and chairman of the Corporate IT Forum) address to the Computer Weekly 500 Club
Disruptive technologies – a nightmare for corporate IT or an opportunity? John talked about some of the challenges facing corporate IT and how the response to them can present new opportunities.
The disruptive technologies often occur on the edge of the organisation and John gave an example where, as a pilot, users were buying their own desktops, with support being provided by web groups.
This presents a paradox, that while the corporate desktop seems to be becoming a commodity item, corporate IT is spending a lot maintaining it.
The issue that provoked the biggest response in a recent survey was the use of personal smart phones to access corporate systems. Virtually everybody in the office seems to have a smart phone of some sort, often running personal e-mail and web services such as LinkedIn, and Facebook. User expectations are also rising all the time as they see new smart phones every six months. They then ask, if my phone does all this why can’t I access my corporate system. The response seems to range from King Canute – a doomed attempt to hold back the tide – to yes, as long as you meet these requirements.
Cloud was another area of focus with many examples of generic services being moved to the cloud ahead of critical services, to take advantage of the pay-as-you-go model and connectivity. The main inhibitors seem to be legal/compliance ones, although there was debate over whether these were real obstacles or just ‘safe positions’. The pressure to address these issues is likely to increase as the evidence for savings from the cloud become more tangible.
One of the most interesting discussions was how to harness the innovative solutions that have been developed unofficially, rather than just killing them off or having them exist in a ‘black economy’. There was an excellent illustration from Virgin, who developed a text alerting service to warn passengers of flight delays using an IT-lite approach. This highlighted both the threats and opportunities. It provided a way to alert passengers during the flight disruptions caused by the volcanic ash clouds but, as a consequence, became more mission critical than it was intended to be.
John’s conclusion was that successful IT departments will be those who see disruptive technology as an opportunity not just a threat.
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