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草根IT客颠覆商用软件游戏规则

草根IT客颠覆商用软件游戏规则

Ryan Holmes 2012年08月13日
平板电脑、智能手机风行之后伴随而生的自带设备上班现象给商用软件市场带来了深刻的变化,过去商用软件的选择和部署都是由首席信息官说了算,自上而下的决策方式成为一种传统。然而现在,职场上的草根IT客在个人设备上大量使用未经授权的软件,并将其带进职场,自下而上的决策蔚然成风。

    它潜伏在卧室,渗透进了董事会,在电脑、笔记本和平板电脑上疯传。它像病毒一样防不胜防,势不可挡。

    “草根IT”是指由员工带到职场的临时性软件或设备。如果你曾经把自己的iPad带到工作位,或者使用过类似Evernote或Dropbox这样的云端软件,那么你很可能就是一个用过“草根IT”的人。这样的人其实不在少数。一项对500名IT决策者进行的调查显示,43%的企业表示,他们的员工正在自行使用云端服务,而这种行为并不受IT部门控制。

    过去,对于负责企业IT和电脑系统的首息信息官(CIO)们来说,这些企业软硬件一直是他们难以攻克的禁地。科技投资公司基准资本(Benchmark Capital)的彼得•芬顿形容CIO“穿着灰色西装,坐在高高的椅子上发号施令,为大公司甚至更大的用户群做产品决策。”但草根IT却反其道而行之,有效地通过众包的方式将IT选择权下放给到员工手里。那么这种现象给CIO们带来了哪些启示?它对大企业的IT前景又意味着什么?

    好消息是,企业IT还有很多改进的空间。“首席信息官网站”(CIO.com)的伯纳德•高顿写道:“(传统IT)总是意味着没完没了的发放新软件,而且软件的界面混乱,功能模糊,价格高昂。”这是因为CIO们最先考虑的一向是软件的安全性、合法性和后端的兼容性,而不是实用性。因此,员工有时只能使用这些一点也不直观的软件。这种情况在时间、金钱和组织健康方面都给企业造成了沉重的代价。

    科技博客TechCrunch的撰稿人艾伦•柯恩指出,在过去,一线员工没有什么选择权,只能凑合着用这些效率低下的软硬件。但是随着在线软件、云端软件服务的迅速增长(又称软件即服务,SaaS),现在普通员工已经可以绕过企业IT,“自己动手,解决问题”。

    如今老式的企业软件已经渐渐行不通了。《快速公司》(Fast Company)的撰稿人马西娅•康纳写道,“80后”的年轻人受Facebook和以及其它类似的直观平台的影响,非常害怕面对冗长无比的电子表格,也不愿意解码web 1.0界面,而是希望他们的工作软件能像他们在私人生活中使用的应用程序一样简单易用,这种趋势就是所谓的IT消费化。而且这些年轻人也愿意从企业之外寻找最适合他们的软件产品。

    以文件分享为例。微软出品的SharePoint是一款传统的企业软件,许多企业都用它来管理文档和分享内容。不过也有一些人批评它死板、复杂,而且对网络不够友好。

    Box则是一款2005年推出的文档分享服务,虽然现在现不是非常流行,但是它提供了一个简单、易用的替代选择。用户几乎不用下载、安装,只需要点击几下,就可以分享内容了。免费+增值的商业模式也促进了它的采用率。Box和网络上的其它许多“软件即服务”解决方案一样(如Yammer、LastPass、Dropbox、Evernote等),对个人用户基本上也是免费的,只是对升级服务和企业版收费。

    科技博客GeekWire的托德•比夏普在总结“软件即服务”(SaaS)的病毒式传播模式时写道:“个人和集体……一开始自行使用这些产品,不过很多情况下导致了他们的企业IT部门也开始跟进,注册了这些产品的高级管理工具。”比如一款应用最初可能只有营销部门的一小部分人使用,然后突然有一天就越过了部门的界限,在整个公司范围内流行开来。

    与此同时,《PC世界》的托尼•布拉德利指出,目前流行的“自带设备上班”(BYOD)文化也促进了SaaS的发展。随着私人智能手机和平板电脑逐渐进入工作场合,员工们不再被束缚在自己的PC前面,也不像过去那样依赖传统软件。在个人iPad上下载云端应用不需要IT部门的批准,也无需复杂的审批流程。

    最后,最佳的SaaS解决方案会被民主地提交到高层。员工们在工作环境中已经测试了不同的解决方案,而且在最理想的情况下,最有效的软件会自然浮出水面。受民主压力所迫,首席信息官在软件选择流程中只能顺水推舟,同意在全公司范围内推广最受欢迎的应用的高级版本。

    员工和终端用户在选择工作软件上的这种新的权力也得到了Yammer首席执行官大卫•萨克斯的认可。Yammer又被人称为“Facebook版的办公室套件”,这家公司最近刚被微软以12亿美元的价格收购。萨克斯称:“他们会说:‘这就是我想用的工具,这个工具能让我的工作更有效率。来吧,IT部门,我们就用这套软件吧。”

    It's out there: lurking in cubicles, infiltrating boardrooms, pulsing through desktops and laptops and tablets. Viral. Relentless. Unstoppable.

    Rogue IT is the name given to the informal, ad hoc software and devices brought by employees into the workplace. If you've ever taken your own iPad to work or used cloud-based software like Evernote or Dropbox in the office, you may well be an offender. And you're not alone. Some 43% of businesses report that their employees are using cloud services independently of the IT department, according to a recent survey of 500 IT decision makers.

    In the past, these enterprise software and hardware decisions were often the exclusive domain of a company's chief information officer or CIO, the senior executive in charge of information technology and computer systems. "Sitting in his high chair in a grey suit barking orders, [the CIO would make] product decisions for big companies with even larger user bases," explains Peter Fenton of tech investors Benchmark Capital. Rogue IT turns that model on its head, effectively crowdsourcing IT choices to employees. So where does this leave the venerable CIO? And what does it mean for the future of IT at the world's largest enterprises?

    The good news is that enterprise IT has plenty of room for improvement. "[Traditional IT] carries connotations of interminable rollouts, bewildering interfaces, obscure functionality and high prices," writes CIO.com's Bernard Golden. Security, compliance and back-end compatibility have traditionally topped CIO wish lists, not usability. As a result, employees have sometimes been left with programs that are anything but intuitive. This exacted a heavy toll in terms of time, money and organizational well-being.

    In the past, however, front-line workers would have had little choice but to struggle with these clunky legacy programs dictated from above. But the rapid growth of online, cloud-based software options (known as SaaS, or software-as-a-service) has now enabled ordinary workers to bypass IT and "take matters into their own hands," explains TechCrunch contributor Alan Cohen.

    Bloated, enterprise software no longer cuts it. Seduced by Facebook (FB) and similarly intuitive platforms at home, millennials balk at staring down monster spreadsheets or decoding web 1.0 UIs at work, writes Fast Company contributor Marcia Conner. Increasingly, they expect their work suites and software to be just as user-friendly as the apps they know and love in their personal lives, a trend known as the consumerization of IT. And they're willing to go outside company walls to find products that work best for them.

    File sharing offers a ready example. Microsoft (MSFT) SharePoint is traditional enterprise software used by organizations to manage documents and share content. Critics complain, not infrequently, that the platform can be rigid, convoluted and web unfriendly.

    While not quite as robust, Box -- a file sharing service launched in 2005 -- offers an easy-to-use, online alternative. With little to download or install, users can share content after a few clicks. Freemium pricing encourages adoption. Like many popular SaaS solutions on the web (Yammer, LastPass, Dropbox, Evernote), Box is generally free for individual users. Charges are only assessed for upgraded and enterprise-wide editions.

    "Individuals and groups . . . start using the product initially on their own, in many cases leading their corporate IT departments to sign up for premium management and administration tools," writes GeekWire's Todd Bishop, summing up the typical viral adoption model. An app might start out with a dedicated clique of users in marketing, for instance, then one day jump departmental walls and go company-wide.

    Meanwhile, the process is fueled by contemporary BYOD (that's Bring-Your-Own-Device) culture. With personal smartphones and tablets entering the workplace, employees are no longer tied to their work PC, with its legacy software determined from on high. Firing up cloud-based apps on your own iPad requires no blessing from IT, no complex approval procedure, writes PCWorld's Tony Bradley.

    In the end, the best SaaS solutions rise to the top democratically. Employees do the hard work of beta-testing different options in the workplace and - in the best-case scenarios - the most effective software emerges naturally. The CIO's role in the selection process is reduced to signing off on premium, enterprise-wide editions of the most popular apps.

    Yammer CEO David Sacks, whose company (a "Facebook for the office") was recently acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion, points out the newfound authority of employees and end users: "They're saying, 'This is the tool I want to use. This is the tool that's going to make me productive. And come on, IT, let's get with the program.'"

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