The purpose of an usher, be it at an old time movie theater or a wedding, is to take people to suitable seats and see that they’re comfortable. The purpose of a bouncer is to throw out bums and keep the peace. These two words conjure pictures in your head of similar folks, but their function is completely opposite.
Many of the things confronting IT today that are as much driven by the business and buzz as by IT and requirements are Cloud Computing and Wireless Devices. Look back historically and find parallels to these things, they’ll help you decide how to handle both phenomenon.
The business user that says “I don’t need you, I can go to cloud provider X” doesn’t realize what he is saying any more than the business user who said the same about SaaS vendors did. You can block him or you can educate him. He does indeed need you, for all the reasons we’ve talked about before – Data Security, Access Control, Integration, and meaningful Reporting. He may not realize that, but he does. Even if “Cloud Provider X” is really just a SaaS vendor with a fresh coat of paint that offers a “complete” solution, we all know that “complete” is not the same as “integrated” and certainly doesn’t imply “secure”. You just have to help the hot-head understand that fact.
The business user that wants his iPad to have 100% access to corporate resources yesterday has a similar issue. We saw this problem with Palms when they first came out. The problem is that they want access without the inherent security. It is your job to educate them on what steps are necessary and how long it will take to set things up in a secure manner, so that when they leave their iPad in a coffee shop – and some will, that is the other bit we learned about devices from the first Palm wave – your corporate systems are protected.
In both of the previous cases – SaaS and Palm – most IT shops played the bouncer, enforcing an artificial rule by locking out non-approved Palms and denying attempts to use SaaS products. And the lesson we learn from that tidbit is that those who did paid for it dearly. People don’t forget that you “roadblocked” them. And honestly, that is 100% about politics and not technology. Since IT is about giving users reasonable access to technology to do their jobs, being the usher is a better solution in the long run. New technology comes and goes like the wind, but politics has a nasty habit of sticking around to haunt you.
In both cases, emotions will run high, so short circuit that problem with the simple expedient of having a plan and sticking to it.
Ask the business to prioritize iPad access versus revamping the website, or whatever other major projects you have going on, then dedicate resources accordingly. Meet “it already almost works!” claims by iPad users with calm responses that “works” and “works securely” are not the same thing, nor is “almost works” the same as “ready for prime time”. Ask them if their phone “almost worked” if they would use it, then explain to them what the plan created above is, and when you’ll be ready to roll out access.
Cloud follows a similar vein. Ask the business to clearly state their goals in using Cloud Computing. If the goal is to be more adaptable or agile, there are a lot of routes to that destination and they don’t all fly through the clouds. Plenty of organizations are achieving a greater agility with virtualization today, without moving into the cloud and increasing complexity in an already complex world. If the answer is to meet a specific need with a specific “SaaS sold as cloud” solution, then get the vendor name and check them out the way you would check out your own apps – do they conform to your security policies, can they integrate with your applications, etc. And present a plan to use them, or alternative solutions that will solve the same business problem. If the stated goal is to remove the roadblock of IT, well you have your work cut out for you. You’re going to have to show them how your work integrates and secures their systems, and it’s not a roadblock but a cost of doing business. You’re also going to have to listen to demands that will sometimes be reasonable… And sometimes not.
The point is, if you’re the bouncer, you’ll spend a lot more time winning back the goodwill of the business. If you’re the usher, you are taking their arm and leading them to the seat that they believe will help them grow the business. Since you work for the same business, usher is a better answer, as long as your corporate data is protected, and when someone asks for data from that “cloud” provider to be included in the data warehouse or weekly reports you have a way to meet that need. That is to say it is integrated or at least accessible.
You won’t regret it, I promise. IT is the only place that can vouchsafe for the level of security these products support and can take steps to make them more secure. IT is the only place that can verify the ability to get data in and out of a given cloud provider in a manner the business can use, and IT is the only place where contingency planning for when/if a cloud provider doesn’t work out can take place. So usher.
Me? I’m already wondering how long it will take IT to support the Blackberry Playbook because as soon as they have wifi, I want one.