Insights into the future of IT from IT leaders

Virtualisation and Consumerisation of IT: Lessons from IT First Movers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 | Staff Writer

What can we learn from IT leaders who have taken risks in the areas of virtualisation and consumerisation of IT? At the recent InformationWeek 500 conference held in Dana Point, California, IT first movers recently discussed the challenges of balancing risk and reward in these still-developing arenas. Here are some insights gleaned from IT leaders who were quick to move outside traditional IT comfort zones.

Virtualisation and Mobile Security
Concerns regarding virtualisation and use of mobile devices need not create two sets of security worries and risks. JetBlue EVP and CIO Joseph Eng introduced a virtualised desktop environment, the "JetBlue desktop,” used by employees at the company’s New York JFK terminal, as well as call centre staff working at home. Employees using tablets also run the same desktop. When employees sign out of the virtual desktop, it is cleared from the tablet. This approach demonstrates that virtualisation and mobile security can complement one another, rather than create more security headaches.

Connecting Data Centre Automation to Business Processes
Forward-thinking CIOs are using virtualisation to connect data centre automation to business processes, and the results are helping organisations become more streamlined and efficient. For example, SuccessFactors CIO Robert Grazioli virtualised the company’s data centre and automated technology processes, and then went one step further by using Microsoft SharePoint as a core content management system, and subsystems like Salesforce, to connect the data centre to business processes. By connecting data centre tools to core business processes, data (such as a bill of materials) can be pulled out of Salesforce and instantly show what has to happen in the data centre to meet a customer order.

Using Virtualisation and the Cloud to Manage Expenses
One of the earliest and most lasting lessons IT leaders have demonstrated time and again has to do with using virtualisation and Cloud to manage unexpected operational expenses. This is especially true for midsize companies that cannot support the capital expenses of larger organisations. Clearly, using virtualisation and Cloud can help spread out the costs of operational expenses, but it can also help contain unpredicted IT expenses. For example, JetBlue’s Eng points out that virtualisation and Cloud allow him to scale the costs up during the company’s seasonal swings.

Taking Advantage of Consumerisation of IT
Consumerisation is a hot topic in the IT world, although few have been able to define what it means in practice. The general vision of consumerisation of IT is that IT should take advantage of today’s powerful consumer technologies and seek to narrow the gap between personal consumer technology and IT technology. But most CIOs and IT departments are still wavering when it comes to saying "yes” to the corporate use of personal devices. For example, JetBlue’s Eng has a list of approved mobile devices. However, Amilyn Pharmaceuticals CIO Steve Phillpott has adopted an any-device-you-want approach. Why? Phillpot subscribes to the notion that mobilisation is in its infancy, and allowing people to use different mobile devices lets us learn lessons about how devices are being used, and eventually will point us to the best choices.

The Culture of Consumerisation of IT
Finally, JetBlue’s Eng reminds us that consumerisation of IT is not just about devices, but about "policy and culture.” The growth of consumerisation of IT will require substantial collaboration between legal and HR professionals to help craft policies that protects both company and employees, especially in regard to security and privacy issues.
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