News that global insurance firm
is piloting iPads and has already saved thousands of pounds in 'paperless' board meetings has made the headlines. News of the boardroom technology coup by Apple is sending ripples through the IT support community, which has so far shunned consumer devices in order to keep desktop devices ‘locked down’ and manageable by the IT department. By Helen Beckett [Published 01/07/2010]
Consumer devices infiltrate enterprise
However, the trendy consumer device, which has only been on sale in shops for the past month, has infiltrated the boardroom of this multinational giant to plaudits from Torus’ executive staff. A total of 29 executives at the insurance firm are piloting the device for the business and are also testing iPads to run line-of-business software and to administer IT systems.
At paperless board meetings, directors swap their usual wads of paper document packs for iPads. Torus was typically printing 1,600 pages for each document pack, which had to be sent by courier to board members in Bermuda, Jersey and London.
The iPads paid for themselves in the first full board meeting because of the savings in printing and courier costs, said the company.
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Role of desktop support changing
Principal analyst with Ovum, Roy Illsley, said that as the core role of many devices is changing within IT, so too is the role of the desktop support teams.
"Either they recognise that the business user is technically savvy and let them manage their own device, letting them take on more of a business support role to enable these new devices. Or they can adopt a ‘bunker mentality’ and attempt to lock everything down."
The lock-down response which also greeted the arrival of PDA in the office a decade ago may not be so appropriate in today’s business environment, warns Illsley. Business users are going to say ‘we’ve got our own devices and we want to connect to cloud services’.
"Over three million iPads have been sold since it launched just a month ago. Compare that to the 2.5 million thin–clients [pared-down enterprise device] units shipped for the whole of last year and this sort of tells us where people want to spend
their money”, said the analyst.
Business role for support
Illsley paints a future scenario where IT desktop support staff field such queries as the business executive who wishes to use an iPhone for a presentation rather than a laptop. Here, the support professional would check whether the iPhone could securely connect to the relevant data layer and be synchronised to the Active X directory to keep the laptop in synch.
This connection and synchronisation capability could also be commissioned by the support staff as an app and released for use on an iStore for roving, corporate users. "Support would consist of shorter bursts of bespoke work", predicted Illsley.
A recent report has simultaneously highlighted the key role of helpdesk staff as ambassadors for the IT department.
"IT reputation has suffered in the economic downturn and our study shows it makes sense to put the best communicators on the frontline with the rest of the business", said Cherry Taylor, author of Rebirth of the IT Budget, a study commissioned by Nomura Software.
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