Job security for CIOs: Give the boss a tablet


CIOs and IT managers who were once judged based on their ability to cut costs and build efficiencies in back-end systems may stand a better chance of improving their career prospects today by giving a new iPad or PlayBook to their CEO, according to an analyst from Gartner Inc.

Speaking to an invitation-only group of CIOs at an event hosted by Tata Consulting Services (TCS) Canada late last month, Ken Dulany joked that offering a tablet device to senior management is great “job security,” even for those who are still figuring out the best way to incorporate such devices into the enterprise.

“I’m serious, though, make them your alpha group,” he advised. “Give them the new ones and let them play with them. They can tell you what works and what doesn’t and what you’ll need to prepare for.”

While there is considerable concern among some IT departments that putting mission-critical data on a tablet may pose major security risks, Dulaney suggested that they are an improvement over what senior executives have used in the past.

“Remember when they would bring those big binders with them and then lose them in a cab, and then you’d have to hope they didn’t fall into the hands with someone who knew what to do with the information? If you look at it that way, tablets are a lot better,” he pointed out. “If you lose a tablet in a cab, you just remote-wipe the data right off it.”

Right now, most useful work in a company can be accomplished on a desktop, laptop or smart phone, Dulaney said. Tablets are a convenience item, and with any mobile device enterprises need to consider the “time critical” nature of use-case scenarios. “A smart phone is inconvenient. If it’s not something they have to do right away (on a smart phone), they’ll wait until they’re back in front of a computer when they get home,” he said, adding that “boredom” can also be an incentive for using certain applications on a device.

Gartner uses a sliding scale of how closely IT departments micromanage device use, from “hands off” and “innovation-oriented” to “choice-oriented” and “control-oriented.” In some cases devices like tablets will be disruptive, but Dulaney believes it’s possible to turn adoption into a strategic opportunity.

“If you can solve (a problem) for mobility properly, you’ll see that you can do other things better, too.”

Dr. Satya Ramaswamy, global head of TCS’s mobility unit, said GPS sensors are one of the forgotten benefits of tablet devices, as is the fact users don’t have to wait for the machines to boot up the way they do their desktops. Tablets will also provide better visualization of market statistics. TCS is already offering executive dashboards that can be attractively displayed on tablets, he said.

Dulaney predicted most people will end up with five to 10 tablets in their homes, any of which may be used for business purposes. “Don’t ever throw them away,” he said. “They make a great digital picture frame once they’re obsolete.”

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