The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit – Dawn of Employee Asset Ownership in IT?

This week’s cover of Businesweek appears to triumphantly announce Apple, Inc.’s comeback (sort of) into the enterprise, even if Apple isn’t actually marketing to that sector.

For Mac afficionados, this is a big change from Businesweek’s former pronunciation of near-death (see The Fall of An American Icon, from 1996, or the Apple Death Knell Counter from Mac Observer).

Okay, so Apple is back; however, the opportunity here for enterprise IT is not so much to bring on a new platform, it’s to explore more thoroughly the idea of “employee asset ownership.” I didn’t find much searching for this idea on Google (maybe there’s a more official name for this? If there is, please add it in your comments), except that a few companies like BP and Unisys are experimenting with it.

Given that the push for Apple products in the enterprise is coming from employees rather than IT departments, and from employees that are willing/interested in managing their own support, we could use this opportunity to analyze the idea of IT support.

If not because of Apple in the enterprise, this is coming up because of Web 2.0. It was mentioned to me recently that part of the rationale needed for bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise are good studies /use cases/ ROI. However, if we look at electronic mail – how did that diffuse into business? Was there ever a study on whether or not e-mail is cost effective and on the best way to use it?

Authors like Nicholas Carr are calling into to question the idea of strategic IT in the first place, which brings up similar questions: “Did businesses really intend to include training and management of computer skills and personal computer assets to be part of the IT function forever?”

I have mentioned the idea that tomorrow’s employees will be able to be at their best when they can bring the skills and talent they use where they work and play into the business world, to create even more value for society. There is enough happening now that we could consider a world where employees own and manage the IT assets (their own computer, cell phone, PDA etc) and the talents needed to use them.

I am not at all against training or continuing education – far from it. In true Toyota fashion, I believe in a strong commitment to training in the best way to do things, but on the basis of job function, e.g. based on what is needed to get a job done. This potentially can come from the business unit or product line. If we take time to define what enterprise assets are and should be moving forward, the Information Technology function could grow to help employees unleash their creativity at the same time they protect what really are enterprise assets.

Thoughts? Comments? Take a moment to read the Businessweek article and see what you think…

Ted Eytan, MD