Enterprise Mobility Summit 2014: Workarounds abound - how poor planning makes IT the bad guy

By John Leonard
12 Jun 2014 View Comments
jonathan hunt point to point

A recurring theme at the Enterprise Mobility Summit 2014 has been that communication and fostering cultural change from the ground up is a far bigger factor in a successful mobility programme than the choice of technology.

IT consultancy Point to Point has seen many times the consequences of IT imposing solutions on end users without first trying to work out how those solutions are going to be used.

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"We have seen some very interesting workarounds," said business development manager Jonathan Hunt.

"For example, at one client a customer services application used to throw up an error message. Someone had worked out a complex series of about 20 mouse clicks to get this message to go away, and this technique actually made it into the company's user manual. The first IT knew of it was when we told them."

Nowhere is the workaround culture more prevalent than in mobility, where numerous consumer alternatives exist that can easily take the place of the corporate-sanctioned apps and devices.

Hunt told the Summit audience about a company that for a few years proudly provided its mobile fieldworkers with a top-of-the-range laptop with everything locked down and encrypted. The fieldworkers used them for a while but had difficulty keying in information while standing up. At the time the iPad had just been released and before too long one worker was doing his job on a platform that was much easier to use when standing, bypassing the heavy security by simply emailing himself the information he needed.

"The iPad came into the company not through IT but through a user working out this was a better tool for him than a laptop," Hunt explained. "He was not being malicious. He was trying to find a way of doing his job better."

Before long, the entire 150-strong fieldwork team had gone out and bought iPads and were working in a completely new way, all under the radar of IT. But what the team viewed as a dynamic, productive working improvement, the IT department (when they eventually found out) saw as a dangerous data leak, and put a stop to it.

Misunderstandings can work the other way too. In its work shadowing an end user group "that had had workforce mobility done to them", an intervention that included being given brand new Macs and being able to work from anywhere, Point to Point found that, surprisingly, a section of the community was deeply unhappy.

"Some of them said: IT is a tool of the trade, it was easier before when IT looked after everything, and now I'm being asked to upgrade the antivirus software on my machine. This is taking me away from my job to do IT's work for them."

These are very simple things that IT tends to overlook, Hunt explained.

"You have to deal with both ends of the spectrum. Some people like coming to work 9 to 5 and they want you to worry about the technology... For some people ‘progress' can seem like a step backward."

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