Behind the eight ball of productivity in the enterprise

I came across an interesting quote in a U.S.-based computer magazine recently: “The enterprise is always the last to adopt new technology.” It came from Greg Raleigh, CEO of Airgo Networks. Raleigh invented a multi-antenna radio chip technology that increases a wireless network’s speed by a factor of three and its range by a factor of 10. And Airgo is reaping the profits from it. But those profits are coming from the home market, where router manufacturers such as Belkin and Linksys are major players. Says Raleigh, “We have only so many resources, and the consumer market is where the money is.”

I guess Apple Computer has figured that out too (with iPod), along with many other companies — including those who provide products and components for video gaming, cellphones, PDAs, cameras and home entertainment systems.

Now, I’ve written about the reversal of “technology dispersion flow” from corporate-to-consumer to consumer-to-corporate off and on for several years now, but hadn’t anticipated how rapidly and thoroughly this would become a fact of life.

In the past I’ve mainly considered this an interesting phenomenon, but now I’m seeing some fairly serious implications. Corporate productivity could suffer and the company’s IT division may well be held accountable.

How so? Employees are consumers too, and if, as consumers, they are early adopters of innovative new technologies and find them valuable, they are going to want to bring them to work so that they can increase their productivity there as well.

But what happens when the IT department or CIO says “Whoa, we have security risks here.” After all, an iPod can carry 60GB of corporate data out the front door, a camera cellphone can capture a prototype of a new product, and so on. But that kind of thinking is totally shortsighted, and consider the repercussions.

Employees may sneak their technology into the company anyway. That’s how IM got into the corporate world and won over at least some IT departments, who now permit it or have implemented an enterprise version of IM.

Or, employees will complain until corporate IT starts getting ahead of the technology curve again.

Or, employees will leave to join other companies who are a bit more enlightened, when it comes to providing professionals with productivity enhancing tools.

Or, worst case scenario, employees will bow to IT management lethargy in evaluating and adopting new technology, and simply leave their best efforts at home.

Let’s hope that the day doesn’t come when workers have to leave some of their creativity, effectiveness, efficiency and innovativeness at home, just because their employers can’t provide or at least accept the use of state-of-the art tools that will foster corporate productivity.

Otherwise, we all stand to lose.

Charles Whaley has a PhD in psychology and applies it to behavioural issues in the IT industry through his consulting and market research firm, Information Technology Enterprises.
cwhaley@ITEnterprises.com.

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