Unchaining the Australian workforce

The massive growth and adoption of mobile devices over the last three years should translate to higher productivity. But only if IT departments are able to shed their 'command and control' mentality in a hurry.

The massive growth and adoption of mobile devices over the last three years will translate to even higher productivity if people are allowed to download apps they find to make their jobs easier.

IT organisations have to give up the ‘controlling’ mindset. The walls, chains, blocks, rules and restrictions put in place by a defensive IT department for years could be harming business and leaving room for fast growing competitors to move onto your company’s turf.

More and more employees in Australia are using their personal mobile devices to access corporate applications (such as email, files sharing and CRM). This is a great pleasure for chief financial officers – they do not need to buy mobile devices because employees are bringing their own.

But chief information officers are worried. Employees who bring their own devices often use third-party cloud services and applications like Dropbox or Evernote or download unsanctioned applications from Google Play or the Apple Appstore, while spending time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube without any protection or security protocols.

Fear and greed 

We know from recent research that four out of every five Australian businesses believe that empowering employees with technology of their own choice will make their business more efficient, more innovative and more profitable.

At the same time, 62 per cent of all technology and business leaders believe that giving employees this freedom of choice increases risk.

Security has traditionally been steeped in fear – of the unknown, of new penetration points, of loss of control – and that fear has driven a rigidity that stymies growth in the business. To empower the business and give employees freedom of choice, the perimeter security model needs to change.  Future security approaches must make it possible for employees to safely choose the technologies that best allow them to perform their jobs.

To maintain or build security in this environment, companies need to drop their guard-dog approach and take on the wise owl position of trusted advisor. This will encourage people to allow the IT department to see the apps they are using, rather than hiding from them the IT department.

Australians are particularly maverick in this regard with 19 per cent of the Australian executives admitting they had accessed cloud storage without IT permission. That’s one third higher than the global admission rate of 14 per cent.

This ‘hide-away’ attitude could relate to the Australian business leaders’ view that IT is a gatekeeper rather than a strategic partner.

Nearly 65 per cent of Australians believe that rigid IT policies hinder innovation. Further, 70 per cent believe that rigid IT policies get in the way of business initiatives to improve customer service while 76 per cent of businesses believe that IT security is the biggest obstacle to enabling employees to choose the best technology in the world at-will.

Business leaders and independent-minded users are driving a shift away from IT-controlled technology to at-will consumption of the best technology, devices, applications and IT services available in the marketplace.

Many IT departments are trying to stop the mobile tsunami by holding up a lollipop sign on the expressway.

Partner not gatekeeper 

Companies that are growing fast have a completely opposite view to companies that are growing slowly. Fourty-four per cent of high growing Australian companies view IT as their strategic partner and 19 per cent of them view IT as the gatekeeper. This is reverse for Australian companies which are growing more slowly, where only 7 per cent believe IT is a strategic partner, while 44 per cent view IT as the gatekeeper.

So, we need to get over our fears and work out how to safely allow employees to have freedom of choice – enabling the business successful. Companies grow fast because they harness innovation thereby capture productivity improvements that underpin greater revenue and profits.

Only by allowing employees to embrace new types of application technologies that leverage the benefits of mobility and cloud can IT truly become a business driver, rather than a business gatekeeper.

Jonathan Andresen, Director of Product Marketing at Blue Coat Systems