How To Prepare Your Business For Wearable Technology
Remember those simple days in IT, when a stray cell phone or laptop was the worst of your worries when it came to personally owned computers in the workplace? The problems associated with the random BlackBerry or iPod seem quaint now that Google GOOG -3.66% Glass, Fitbit wristbands and other high-tech gadgets are flooding the workplace. When it comes to personally owned devices, workers have it all – and they expect to be able to use their computing bounty not only in their personal lives, but also for business.
What’s an IT pro to do? The answer is at once very simple and very complicated: Deal with it. You’ve really got no other choice. Forrester Research was the first to recognize the power of this unstoppable trend now known as the consumerization of IT. And if this year’s Consumer Electronics Show is any indication, wearables will be the next wave of consumer technology to transform the office the way smartphones once did.
The good news is that there are some best practices you can put into place to ensure that dealing with it means keeping end users productive and corporate data safe.
Learn from Past BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Problems
IT pros who are prepared can lead this transformation instead of scrambling to catch up.
“Think about the lessons learned from BYOD and get back in front,” suggested Philippe Tellier, managing consultant at PA Consulting Group, a management and IT consultancy.
PA Consulting Group is part of the Glass Explorer Program, and it’s testing with clients how Google Glass could enable new ways of working. For example, a utility field worker trying to solve a maintenance issue could use the computer-based eyewear to communicate with engineers back at headquarters.
“A lot of these new technologies – like Glass, smart watches and other wearables – are not mature yet, but will evolve very rapidly, similarly to what we’ve seen with smartphones and tablets,” said Tellier. “[In] the next 18 months to two years, employees will be used to having a Glass that they use for personal reasons and will expect to use some of its benefits in the workplace.”
Identify Best Practices Early
Ironically, the trend toward BYOD and the use of third-party apps could undo decades of work by CIOs to provide a unified view of all company data, according to Elliott Baretz, vice president of business development for consultancy SWC Technology Partners. When teams and business units select and procure their favorite apps – without blessing or even knowledge of IT – they may forget to consider important issues such as data compatibility and access.
Therefore, said Baretz, it’s important for IT to be “the catalyst of communications.”
Instead of just sitting back, advised Baretz, IT pros should be researching the software and services that will best speed business processes and empower mobile workers, and then communicate recommendations and best practices to department leads.
Get Ready to Secure Wearables
Just as with other brought-in devices, if employees can use them to do work, they will. While it may be too early to tell which wearables will take off with consumers and thus find their way behind the firewall, you can do two things to prepare. First, review your existing policies for brought-in devices and rewrite them if necessary to cover wearables. Then, talk to your vendors about their plans to secure this new generation of wearable technology.
Develop a Clear Roadmap
IT execs may not be able to support Google Glass or smartwatches in two years, but they can–and should–show the CEO that they have a plan to get there.
“Provide a clear roadmap for which applications could be rolled out considering the technological constraints you are working with,” said Tellier.
The two biggest constraints are the need to tailor existing business applications to mobile devices and align the company’s security model with cloud-based applications, according to Tellier.
Don’t Stand in the Way of Progress
Many IT pros are cautious about this new technology and want to move slowly to avoid potential security and privacy problems. But, as the speed of technology change increases, so, too, must the ability of business to leverage that technology.
“We have the responsibility in this new world to facilitate a lot of these experiences and not encumber them,” said Baretz.
While companies need to tread carefully as wearable technology moves into the office, they should not be overly cautious. Companies that drag their feet on wearables risk being seen as dinosaurs, and they could get low marks from top job candidates who want to live a more technology-based life – even at work.
While this may seem like a huge challenge for IT departments, it can also be a huge opportunity for IT professionals looking for ways to expand their roles.
Working alongside the business to figure out how to exploit all technology – including the technology being used by their customers and brought in by their workers – can elevate IT staffers from tech support and purchasing to project management and the design of business processes and architectures, according to the PA Group.
Preparing for the next wave of consumer devices in the enterprise can help CIOs and the entire IT department become strategic partners. Demonstrate that you’re ahead of technology trends, and you can take the lead.
This article, “How to Prepare Your Business for Wearable Technology” originally appeared online at Forbes.com
To learn more, visit www.swc.com or call 630.572.0240.