The dual trends of ‘bring your own device’ and the rise in mobile workforce have placed new demands on the IT team, particularly the help desk.
But they can also have a positive impact on the team that has, or prepares for these trends, as demand grows for staff that are able to support the growing number of users of smartphones and tablets.
Andrew Fox, head of mobility solutions, SAP Australia and New Zealand, says the first step for CIOs in this environment is to sort out their “device management layer”.
“There is a huge difference between people ticking a box,” he says, referring to simply having email and internet available on the device, and “actually putting in an effective management system”.
“They have to sit down and work out what is the mobile strategy for the entire business in the next three to five years.”
He cites, “If we mobilise 500 sales people, they need their ‘go to person’ in IT.” This person, he says, needs to understand what the sales force do, “so you need a technically literate sales person.”
“We have shielded the IT function behind the help desk,” he says. “We get in, our organisation gets a ticket. This is not what Generation Y or mobile workers want to hear.”
“If the salespersons out in the field can’t get what they need in front of the customer to work, they can get annoyed. They are not going to put a ticket in [to the help desk].They need a human being at the end of the phone who knows how this works.”
He says this person can be a “geek” who speaks their language. “You need those people, you suddenly realise the skills they have now are mission critical,” he says. “To make a mobile business work, you need a friendly voice at the other end of the phone, somebody whom you have a relationship with.”
He also says the mobility trend can also impact the business analysts. “We used to have business analysts working as part of the IT function. Those roles are going to rapidly become sort of a mid-level tech consultant that are part of IT.”
The rise of BYOD
Fox traces the massive rise of BYOD to the holiday season two years ago when it seemed as if every chief executive or board member got an iPad. “They wandered into the office after the extended holidays and said, ‘I have got this, please attach it. I want my mail on this.’”
The CIO or IT director told the IT team to make this happen. “So they scrambled and found something to tick the box and ended up with something the telcos sold them.”
In the next quarter, the same organisations who already have mail and internet also want the board papers in the devices. The demand for other apps like BI came in.
Fox shares his personal experience with the BYOD trend – as ‘CIO’ of his own household, which he says is also happening to some of his IT colleagues.
Fox estimates he manages around 15 networked devices at home using a network controller and an attached storage. This number increases during Christmas and birthdays. “I realised I am actually CIO essentially of a small business.”
He says this self-service model is not unusual and result of the taking over of a generation of users who are IT-savvy. “They don’t think twice about this. This is natural.
If I am out of the office and something doesn’t work, my son is on the phone and he is more than capable of fixing [it]. All he needs is my password.”
“This is why BYOD works,” he says. “The next generation walks in, says ‘thanks for the job. I brought my phone. How do I attach it [to the networks]. How do I get apps on this?’”
Fox says this happened to himself recently when he hired a new staff member in Wellington. On his first day he brought in a smartphone and a tablet and has no interest in ordering one from SAP’s purchasing system. So the first thing they did was attach those devices to the networks so he can go on with the job. He downloaded Afaria (SAP’s mobile device management system) and that just pushed all the apps to him. “He was incredibly surprised how quick it was.”