There has always been a communication barrier between IT staff and users, but now there is serious pressure to break down the barriers and deal with the issues.
Some of these issues, including BYOD, exploiting unstructured information, implementing corporate apps and security, were discussed at a June roundtable organised by CIO Asia and sponsored by SAP to debate the leading question: Are You Ready to be a Next Generation CIO? Moderating the roundtable was T.C. Seow, editor of CIO Asia.
User demands put huge pressure on security policy, so it's refreshing to hear from a company that doesn't have to compromise. "We're an OEM manufacturer, so our operations are customer-driven," said Paul Lau, VP Finance, Nam Tai Electronic & Electrical, makers of LCD modules. "Before we can start a production run, I have to set up a strong security environment, and prevent any mobile electronic devices entering the production line. We must set up an independent server for each customer's project, with an EMS (Electronic Manufacturing System), so the client can monitor production. The IT department must also act as intermediary between the business partners, management and the users – our IT department has expanded 30 percent in the last year to handle such issues."
But most CIOs now have much less control over security, and a key obstacle is the flood of mobile devices. "A year ago, an MIS Asia survey showed 52 percent of CIOs would ban all mobile devices in the office environment," said T.C. Seow, Editor, CIO Asia, who was the moderator. "Only a year later, almost every company has permitted BYOD access, and CIOs say they can't help it, because their bosses are using them."
One CIO from the retail sector admitted his shop floor managers would love to access the SAP application on their mobile devices, but he had strong misgivings. "I am a 'techie' guy, but I don't like to see mobile devices being used casually in the office environment, where they are an obstacle to good communication. People spend too much time texting and browsing, and not enough time communicating face-to-face, or even by phone. Managers would mostly be better off taking a pen and a pad to meetings."
Even internal emails can generate more spam than communication. "We've seen some customers restricting the use of internal email after 5pm, or even banning them completely," said Bruce McKinnon, Regional VP and Head of Services Sales, SAP Asia Pacific & Japan. "The jury's still out on whether this can increase productivity."
Whether companies really need lock-down on mobiles depends on the context. For example, some organisations impose strict access to office email to within the office network, thereby ensuring there is little chance for contamination. However, there are workarounds, such as configuring office email app like Microsoft Outlook to forward all incoming messages to an external mailbox, thereby allowing the account holder to indirectly access internal mail at all times. The corporate IT service might not approve of this workaround, but people need to use laptops inside and outside the office, said Seow.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.