The genie escaped the bottle when the CEO got an iPad

Credit: herval via Flickr

For the last couple of years, IT has been dealing with the challenge of managing devices and services that users are bringing into the workplace. But that period is over -- the user has won.

So the next big challenge for IT is connecting all these new systems into the legacy back-end systems that companies have been using for years, and which aren't going away any time soon. 

CITE Conference speaker John Mancini, the CEO of AIIM, a global organization devoted to information management, explains. "There's a distinction between systems of record and systems of engagement. When people first started going with systems of engagement, bringing social and mobile and cloud into the enterprise, it was almost a skunkworks approach -- OK, let's pretend this doesn't exist and let them do what they want, or look the other way and allow it to develop....that's where IT was cast as the villain. They were the ones standing at the gates keeping all great technology from entering in."

Mancini continues, "What's starting to happen now is that people are realizing it's not an either/or scenario. You can't resist the tide of consumerization in the enterprise, especially in larger organizations, but you can't just allow it to happen serendipitously. You have to connect it to back-end systems."

The trick is taking systems that contain information that used to be closely guarded behind a firewall, and figure out how to maintain control over as it spreads on to myriad devices and into public cloud services. This requires new ways of working, not just an evolution of the information management systems from the old days.

"All the precepts break down. You can't do it manually anymore -- you can't do drag and drop systems that rely on the individual user to take action on what they do with information. You also can't just rely on willy-nilly access and leakage of corporate information into consumer devices. So you're starting to see solutions emerge on the part of organizations where they don't try to curtail introduction of iPads into the organization, or iPhones and Android devices, but what they do try to control is how information lines up on devices. They take control of information once it's on those devices."

He tells the story of talking to a startup who wanted some advice on a particular project. He got off the phone, and half an hour later received an email with a link to a public file-sharing service. He clicked on it and got a big surprise.

"I'm not at the individual file level, I'm at the corporate directory level, looking at folders that say things like 'compensation,' 'patents,' and 'intellectual property.' I called him back and said 'Listen, you are just a small startup, but you really have to think about this question. What kinds of processes do you need to use in a cloud-based product to protect yourself from people unintentionally doing things like this?"

The one thing you can't do, says Mancini, is put the genie back in the bottle.

"As soon as the CEO got an iPad for Christmas in December 2010, the whole world changed. All of a sudden those guys were showing up with the IT dept, asking 'What's the matter with you people, why can't you get our systems on a device like this, why can't I use this?' That started to change the expectations of what kind of technology services and support IT is going to have to deliver. It'd be nice for some people if you could turn back the clock, but you cannot do that." 

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