October 31, 2011
Music is a very important part of my life. At home I've always got something playing on the sound system, I never go anywhere without headphones, and my music collection takes up more space in my house (not to mention on my computer) than anything else. That's why on a recent trip up to Maine – a 4.5 hour ride from Boston – the first thing I did to prepare was make sure I had my phone for music on the drive, without which I'd be stuck with the radio. Having to listen to the same 40 songs for four and a half hours is something that could easily give me nightmares but it got me thinking about how much choice matters.
Ten years ago I would have been happy enough with just the radio. Then came Napster and the iPod and my world changed. I became aware the technology existed which meant I knew there was a better alternative to the radio. What's more, I was excited about it. I wanted to use my iPod and put new music on it. The product engaged me as it had engaged everyone around me. I think that correlates with what we're seeing today in firms across all industries where employees have long been locked into aging technology – which often doesn't do everything they need it to – by lack of choice.
Whether it was tape, CD, or radio, auto manufacturers locked drivers into a small set of tools they had to use to get music in their car. IT departments have been no different historically, and with good reason. Management, security, and cost concerns are top priorities and more than anything the majority of employees we're not aware of alternatives. Apple changed that. The iPod drove consumer demand which eventually pushed auto manufacturers to provide audio hookups in cars, giving choice and access to the users. The iPhone has performed the same magic, this time engaging employees across the globe and showing them that there is technology which can live up to their expectations and even go beyond them.
Today, employees want access to company data and applications from their own devices, giving them the freedom to work from home or on the road and still get their jobs done. They know there is technology which can delight them (even if they are using it for work) and if IT won’t provide it for them, they'll find a way to do it themselves. That's one main reason we see so many infrastructure and operations professionals taking steps to open the corporate doors to allow employee owned devices by creating a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. In fact, our most recent survey data shows that nearly half of firms support employee owned devices in some context:
There is a lot to learn from firms who have already begun taking their employees' new technology expectations into account and it’s all about choice.
In a session next month at Forrester's Infrastructure & Operations Forum, Ben Gray and I will explore the trends and best practices we're seeing from firms with successful BYOD strategies as well as have some interactive discussions around what it means to enable your employees in today’s increasingly mobile world.