I spoke to the IT leadership team at a major automotive manufacturer last week on the topic of empowerment. The group consisted of the CIO, security and compliance professionals, business strategy, HR representatives, and other IT managers in charge of mobility, social computing, innovation, and application development initiatives. At Forrester, we talk about empowerment in terms of the rising imbalance between enabling technology tools we have in our personal lives and those we have in the workplace. Think mobile, social, cloud, and consumer video tools. Our data indicates that almost 51% of information workers now believe they have better technology at home than they have at work. And 37% are using these personal tools get real work done.

At least anecdotally, the gap between consumer technology change and IT’s ability to assimilate those technologies into the workplace looks to be widening. A recent report recently highlighted this gap, explaining that in one government agency, it takes 18 to 24 months to roll out a single new IT system, while it took only 24 months to invent the iPhone. 
Clearly IT budgets will never keep up with private investments in technology innovation. But it’s not all about money. What else is causing the impedance mismatch between personal/home and workplace technologies? A few comments from my audience highlight the complexities our corporate IT departments face in this age of empowerment:
  • CIO: “IT has become the face of a lot of top-down, control-oriented functions in our company.” Basically, this highly service-focused CIO was saying his team is implicitly taking on a new role – that of negotiator between the interests of departments like Finance, HR, and Legal and the front line worker demanding to put her latest gadget to work for the company.
  • Security Professional: “Several of the cloud service providers – including Google and Skype – provide little or no protection for our company.” He went on to say that the security of services like Google apps is better than what he can provide himself. Skype is cheaper. But the user agreements offered by these services offer no protection for companies’ need to respond to lawsuits, comply with employee privacy laws, and protect IP.
  • IT Manager: “With a fixed budget, we need viable ways to pay for mobile and social workplace tool sets.” So money does matter! Particularly in the case of personal mobile devices and rate plans (a top of mind concern for this group), Forrester sees numerous clients trying to take advantage of the ubiquitous productivity benefits of smartphone and tablet computing, while ensuring these services don’t break the bank.
It was clear from this session is that IT managers in charge of empowering the workforce with the latest technology face a new set of complex, non-IT challenges. Barring sweeping tort reform and/or regulatory change, Forrester believes IT managers in charge of content and collaboration in the workplace must adapt. This will mean balancing the demands of an often conflicting set of control-oriented interests, managing workforce expectations for new tools in the workplace, and supporting the imperative for fast time-to-delivery and real financial outcomes.
That’s certainly doesn’t sound like the IT of the past. But it does sound like a new leadership opportunity for Content & Collaboration professionals. Thoughts?