When Apple Sat Down at My Dinner

I was chowing down on some Parmesan garlic bone-in wings with some friends last week when I had a startling revelation. Between the ordering of food and the delivery of it (time that’s supposed to be used for rich conversation and reminiscence) I looked up from my phone and realized that my precious friendship time was being absorbed by technology. My friend sitting across from me was on his Android phone, my other friend on his Blackberry (I don’t know what he could have been doing), and my adjacent crony on her iPhone.

As I briefly pondered this all too common phenomenon of technology absorbing the social universe, I thought about how alarming our dependency on technology has become. We’re tied at the hip to our smartphone! In fact, research done by Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow found that 44 percent of smartphone users would experience a “great deal of anxiety” if they lost their phone and couldn’t replace it for a week.

This addiction to technology and mobility is an enormous problem for IT. To illustrate this, let’s take a trip down memory lane to 2003 when Nokia released the fully analog Nokia 1100 cell phone. Remember those days? Back when text messages cost five cents apiece to send or receive and Snake was the hottest app to hit the market since Pong? In those days your phone didn’t matter a whole lot to you, even though it was very convenient. Pretty soon IT started issuing Blackberry phones so you could check your email on the go and do limited web browsing. And we were fine with that.

Then Apple came along. The iPhone boasted functionality that made Back to Future 2 look prehistoric and unleashed the nightmare that haunted every IT department. Users now had freedom to customize their phones, download applications, access the internet, check emails and send high-resolution photos to friends. They were free to find whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. And heaven help anyone who attempted to take that freedom away. You were probably better off trying to pilfer their wallet.

IT was confronted with an enormous challenge. They were now being asked to manage and secure the IT environment, without interfering with user productivity. Yet to an IT guy, those little devices in people’s pockets were like data time bombs, just waiting to wreak havoc on the sensitive information that was so well protected before. The storm clouds gathered in suddenly the IT parade wasn’t just being rained on, it was being shredded. Some companies chose to ban smartphones from accessing the corporate network, others chose to let the time bombs roam free.

This challenge has been magnified since then. Today, users don’t just want mobility, they expect it. . Even the Wall Street Journal has begun discussing BYOD from a user perspective, sensationalizing the control that IT wants over the user, and completely disregarding the real desire of IT to boost user productivity and minimize risk and compliance issues.Tablets and smartphones are now critical business tools that help users stay productive regardless of location. Universal access to data from any device is a must have, and IT is expected to deliver it.

At LANDesk, we eat, sleep, drink, and dream IT. We’ve seen this problem affect all sorts of organizations from hospitals to retail stores to transportation companies. We know the challenges and have seen the stress that it puts on IT to deliver. And while IT has been jerked around by the ever-demanding user, we’ve been hard at work solving these problems and turning IT into a hero again.

As we continue to innovate, users and IT will once again begin singing the same tune, and resume their pleasant games of Words with Friends—on their smartphones.