Consumerization of IT, Social Business and Other Challenges; a View From Latin America

I had the pleasure of spending part of this week in Santiago de Chile with some of my colleagues from IDC Latin America to present the first event in the LA Consumerication of IT Roadshow.

I had the pleasure of spending part of this week in Santiago de Chile with some of my colleagues from IDC Latin America to present the first event in the LA Consumerication of IT Roadshow. I presented a view of the subject from the Worldwide team while Frederico Amprimo gave a perspective from the region. The highlight for me though, was a roundtable session with ~20 CIO’s from companies in the area and spread across a diverse set of industry verticals.

I won’t go back through what I’ve already posted on the comsumerization of IT, you can re-read it if you’re curious, but it’s probably useful to bring out what I think are the most important points that underpin the topic, the shift in the source of technology innovation away from the enterprise to the consumer sector and the changing expectations of people in general (employees, customers, suppliers, partners, etc.). The two shifts, at least in part facilitated by the growing hyper-connectivity provided by the Internet, have helped serve as catalyst for many changes in business, including playing a role in pushing adoption of social business tools, concepts and processes. Connectivity is having a big impact on the economy (and business models), society and on technology.

Anyway, what I really wanted to focus on in this post is the 2+ hour conversation with the group of CIO’s. I have conversations with CIO’s and IT managers often enough, but this is the first time in a while that I’ve sat down with a group from South America, so I wasn’t sure what I’d hear as top issues and concerns. It’s probably no surprise though, that the conversation was pretty similar to any other roundtable meeting I’ve done over the past few years. The major issues facing CIO’s in this region are pretty much aligned with the overall issues facing businesses these days, including:

  • Dealing with employees that insist on using non-approved devices at work (BYOD), including the effort required to support multiple devices, maintain security, protect IP and manage costs.
  • Dealing with the social customer who insist on interacting with businesses on terms defined by them, not by the business.
  • Providing collaboration tools / enterprise social networks that meet employees needs and desires while providing a good return on investment. Once implemented getting adoption of the new tools and changing the ways of working to best leverage the open and transparent workplace while building a knowledge sharing culture.
  • Managing the use of public social networks for business in marketing, customer service, sales, etc. including how to make the connections secure, how to police them for IP protection, and how to ensure proper behavior that represents the business in proper fashion. I should note that Chile has the highest percentage of the population on Facebook in the world.
  • How to ensure that social tools will scale to meet business needs, particularly when they connect with public social networks in support and marketing.
  • Managing and getting the most value out of previous IT investments in a rapidly changing technology landscape, particularly how to deal with aging software systems that can’t from a strategic and cost perspective be replaced in the near term, but provide such an outdated user experience that employees don’t want to use them anymore. This is of greatest impact in areas where employees will bring alternate free / freemium publicly available but unauthorized tools into the business as workarounds to software they is not meeting the needs and expectations.
  • What to put in the cloud, how to get the most out of investing in the cloud going forward, and how to manage a heterogeneous or hybrid IT shop effectively.
  • How to reposition IT from compliance enforcer back to strategic business partner.

I’m sure there were more issues discussed, it was a lively group, but this list captures the bulk of it I think. We discussed a lot of ideas on dealing with the challenges. From my perspective here are a few of the higher priority suggestions that were offered:

  • Build a social media / social network use policy and train all employees on its use.
  • It’s important to have a social strategy as a business. That strategy should address both internal enterprise social networks and external use cases with customers, partners and suppliers. These are a part of the same strategy, 2 halves of the same coin, etc. It’s folly to just focus on customers, IMO, you must also address organizational silos.
  • Implementing social tools and trying to build a collaborative culture is sure to fail if employee incentives don’t match those objectives.
  • To succeed, an enterprise social network needs visible executive support and active use. Adoption is critical, executive use goes a long way in sending the right messages to employees.
  • Champions or super users (or whatever you call them) can be a great tool to help with adoption of social tools.
  • BYOD is a reality. The business must figure out a strategy to support multiple devices. There are several options including deploying a new device management platform to using one of the mobile virtualization solutions like Citrix Receiver or VMware Horizon. Offering device allowances instead of providing specific devices is proving successful for many businesses as well.
  • There are many free or freemium tools that are secure enough for some uses and that can add significant value to the overall set of social tools. For example one CIO of a mining company shared that he had implemented Skype as a inexpensive way for various field sites to keep in touch with great success.
  • Scale is a concern. Using enterprise class social tools for key initiatives is critical. For example, connecting to customers on public social networks is a reality, but in support, those connections must tie into a scalable customer service system to ensure an acceptable customer experience while enabling agents to do their jobs effectively.

There were some very interesting discussions along the way, I wish I had the ability to share the entire experience but hopefully these few notes offer some insight.

The roadshow continues this Fall in Mexico City on Sept 20th.

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