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Why IT Must Embrace Facebook, Twitter, iPhone Wed 01 Sep 10

Consumer technologies are infiltrating the corporate world. Learn to leverage them.

Brave New World alles-schlumpf I like TED. TED is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to "Ideas Worth Spreading." They have conferences where they bring together thought leaders from the world of technology, entertainment and design (hence the acronym).

The great thing about TED is that for those of us who don't actually get to attend its conferences, the talks are posted on its website. The downside is that there is a lot to see and you can spend a lot of time there. (Or is that an upside?)

That is why I was happy to see an article by John Brandon, 8 must-see TED talks for IT pros, where he's found some talks about interesting new technologies that should interest IT professionals. Brandon doesn't just list the talks but also reviews them and has some consumer analysts give a "reality check" on how ideas such as this come to market.

Although the analysts were generally skeptical that any of these technologies would come to market and be widely used in the near future, it is still important that we in IT look at these and think about how we could use these new technologies.

It used to be that computer technology was applied at work PCs, networking, e-mail, etc. and then entered the consumer space. Now people are using technologies first in their personal lives such as Skype, Twitter, Facebook and iPhones long before they're introduced in their workspace.

As a result, we are seeing what is referred to as the consumerization of IT. This refers to people being exposed to new technologies in their personal lives and asking, "Why can't we apply this to our work?" It's important to recognize that they just aren't asking to use Twitter with their friends at work, they're also asking to use the technology to do their work.

In many cases, people figure out a way to use these technologies as part of the work and then IT has to play catch-up. Typically IT will try to quash them by saying it is not a standard corporate offering and is unsupported by IT. When this fails, we scramble to learn something about it and then try to formalize its use in one standard form for one purpose. This of course fails and we lose all control of the technology.

Because of this, I believe IT professionals should be studying both future and current consumer technologies.

To what extent Twitter and other consumer technologies are useful in the corporate world depends on the nature of the company, its business, its customers and its market.

However, we need to look beyond the particular application of technology. Twitter itself may not work for your business but the underlying communication technology could be very useful. Likewise, the networking concepts of Facebook could be used to allow your employees to network together and know what each of the others is working on.

The social networking application, Foursquare, has location-based technologies that could be useful to your business. You may consider the iPhone as just another phone with no particular significance for your business, but the user interface technologies it employs may be very useful.

Our job as IT leaders is to not only manage the current technologies but also to look ahead and see what new technologies are out there and how we can use them to our competitive advantage.

Toward that end, we need to get familiar with new consumer technologies and look beyond the superficial and see if we can utilize the underlying technology that makes them popular.

Perhaps by doing this we can lead the introduction of new technologies into our companies rather than trying to play catch-up with the technology that our users bring in from the personal technology world.

"Brave New World" photo by alles-schlumpf / CC BY 2.0

This article is also posted on Forbes.com.  Feel free to join in the discussion either on this site or at Forbes.com

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