In case you haven't noticed, today's consumer products and applications routinely outperform -- and out "cool" -- their business counterparts. So no wonder users bristle when forced to make do with second-rate business solutions. But IT folks often make the situation worse.I've been thinking about this ever since the SalesFoogle announcement last month, where Google VP and enterprise GM Daven Girouard laid it out pretty clearly:
"20 years ago, Giraouard siad, "you had access to the best technology in the workplace. You had a T-1 line to access the Internet at the office, for example, "then went home to watch 3 channels of TV."
Now, though, the best technology is clearly on the consumer side. I like to use the fact that my company gives me 250 MB of e-mail storage space in its expensive implementation, while gMail gives me 7 GB for free. But Giraouard cited the iPhone as the best example.
So I made a point of stopping by an Interop UnConference interactive session on whether IT should support the iPhone. It was some 20 IT professionals from all size companies sitting around downing beers and discussing the options. The leader of the discssion came down hard on the side of choosing one device/platform to support and locking everything else out of the network.
And what if the company CEO wants to use an iPhone? Tell him: "Don't be a child!" was the suggested response.
No one considered any possible business value of using multiple devices, focusing only on the issues raised for IT folks. "I won't allow anything on the network that can't be wiped clean remotely," one guy declared to mutterings of approval.
I found this disheartening for a while. There was no eagerness to find the best solution, just the easiest, cheapest, and safest. In my opinion, that kind of attitude is exactly why consumer tech now outshines business tech.
Ironically, though, this situation offers a real opportunity to smaller businesses who can leverage existing consumer solutions to outflank larger, more conservative companies. One participant in the Unconference described how he started a new company using all consumer products and services and zero IT budget.
That full-bore approach won't work for many companies, of course, but it offers a path to a new way of thinking about IT that aggressively combines the best of both worlds.