BYOT - Bring Your own Technology
Monday, November 2, 2009 at 9:00AM
Steve in Organization, Technology

Spent some time Sunday morning (the extra hour of 'sleep' we got in the US), reading some excerpts from a book titled 'The Tower and the Cloud',  Chapter One : 'The Gathering Cloud: Is this the End of the Middle' by Richard Katz.

The book is an examination of the technological changes and forces at work that will dramatically impact and inevitably alter the structure and delivery of higher education in the US and worldwide. One of the Flickr - prestamost interesting observations from the first chapter concerns the how the academic institution will be effected by the increasingly technical acumen demonstrated by its incoming students:

As the explosion of content continues along with the increasing maturity and availability of web-based academic services and applications, tomorrow’s students will arrive on campus with their own IT architectures and service arrangements. These students—and tomorrow’s faculty—will have little use for or patience with college or university offerings that under perform or force them to lose precious connections to people and processes that they have accumulated since childhood.

This idea has certainly been discussed and observed in the workplace or professional context as well. How does the organization react when new employees (typically Millennial or Gen Y age) enter the workforce carrying with them (and expecting to leverage) different, and many times superior technical capabilities than the organization has deployed?

Whether it is Gmail with its huge storage capacity, external social networks for connection and information sharing with their personal communities, cloud based file storage and collaboration services, or free web-conferencing and conference calling on demand, or event the latest in slick technology the new (and existing) employee has the ability, and perhaps the expectation that they can and should be able to leverage these capabilities in the workplace.

In 'The Tower and the Cloud', Katz suggest these factors (and several others) will force a fundamental shift in the traditional role of the university as the 'center' of learning, research, and access to technology. Since information access, computing power, and ability for experts to connect directly with students (and potential students) without the need for the physical university as a kind of broker the university will be forced to adapt to this reality, and evolve in order to survive.

In the corporate world, while it does seem that such dramatic changes are less likely (at least not as quickly), there are certainly some implications.  In an environment where employees (especially younger ones) move much more frequently from one firm to another, does it still make sense to spend the first 'X' days/weeks/months teaching these employees all about your unique and in many cases proprietary systems? Or would that time and effort be better spent building bridges from these internal systems to the ones that employees are already familiar with and have already adopted?

Technical capability, access to information, employees understanding and leveraging of networks, cloud capability and new and better solutions for collaboration all are advancing faster than most organizations ability to keep up.  Finding the correct balance between forcing employees back inside the corporate 'technology box' and leveraging the tools and capabilities they bring with them is one of the most important challenges for organizations today.

The ones that strike the correct mix will be in far stronger position than the ones that don't.


Article originally appeared on Steve's HR Technology (
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