The ways in which companies provide technology to their employees is changing. As Bruce Rogow puts, it, we're moving from a world of "Bauhaus" IT (in which IT tells technology users -- and you have to say this with a German accent -- “Here is what you will get”) to a world of "Je Voudrais" (French for "I would like") IT.
Forrester calls this Tech Populism, and Matthew Brown, principal analyst and research director, addressed this at last week's Business and Technology Leadership Forum.
The typical approach to provisioning tools to people today, Brown said, is still in the here-is-what-you-will-get mode. IT leaders approach users of technology as if 1) they're all the same, 2) they all need the same tools, and 3) they will use those tools in the same way.
Forrester did a study on "consumer technographics" and grouped people into one of four categories based on their enthusiasm for technology and their investment in/focus on their careers. He then described the best ways to engage each group from an IT perspective.
The first group he talked about is passionate about technology but not in regards to their careers. They're going to do their own thing, regardless of what the company provides. They may be gamers or active social networkers. The best way to engage them is to "watch and listen to what they’re doing" and look for ways to apply what you learn from that to business problems. Shaygan Kheradpir, CIO at Verizon, has formalized this by encouraging "the kids" in his organization to experiment and apply consumer technologies to business (e.g., playing around with Machinima as a way to get better engagement on conference calls). You can also learn a lot from watching the behavior of your early-adopter customers; most IT people don't spend anywhere near enough time on this.
Technology is central to both the work and home lives of people in the second group. These are the truly wired professionals who live by their laptops, networks and PDAs. They want IT's support and are often frustrated by not having their needs met. IT can best serve them by giving them better, easier access to information, supporting collaboration and improving support for mobility.
The third group is "career intense," but technology doesn't really matter to them -- or a least they think it doesn't. Unlike the previous group, these folks need to be persuaded. "IT needs to prove the ROI of technology investments; communicate in business, not technology, terms; and introduce evolutionary, not revolutionary, change," Brown says.
The last group are the laggards, rating low on both the technology and the career scales. It's important to identify who they are so you can avoid over-investment in tools, but they shouldn't be ignored; companies can use technology to gain insight from them that they couldn't get otherwise (Brown used Best Buy's Tagtrade prediction market as an example of this).
I think this is a useful model for a good first step on the way to "Je Voudrais" IT. Another is the trend of having employees purchase their own hardware. What do you think?
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.