Business and technology are two words that have gone together for decades. Business and Apple technology – well, not so much. Let’s face it, Apple made a name of itself by calling out “the man” and not bending to his authority. That rebellious attitude and freedom to be yourself has always typified Mac users and it’s a razor sharp contrast to the image of guys in suits with BlackBerrys and Windows-based laptops.
So, it may be surprising to realize that one in five people use Apple products in the workplace. How do you explain that? Easy. Apple is launching nothing less than a revolution of what technology means in the workplace,
The first warning shots of that revolution were fired in January 2007 when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone. Most people then didn’t realize the iPhone was going to change the business world – RIM actually sarcastically thanked Apple for creating what its executives considered a toy.
Who’s laughing now?
Apple’s move to empower users to choose the best technology in the workplace is radically changing business. Referred to as the consumerization of IT, this revolution is about individuals taking charge of their professional lives. Businesses are increasingly getting behind this new way of thinking – in part because of programs that allow or reward users for bringing their own iPhones, iPads, and Macs into the office. Even in companies where management and IT don’t endorse so-called bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, many people are simply using the iPhone or iPad they already own without bothering to tell anyone.
Despite what some pundits might argue, Apple isn’t just getting lucky here – the company has worked long and hard to make iOS and OS X completely enterprise and business ready. Along with the App Store, iPhone OS 2 introduced security frameworks to the iPhone as well as support for Microsoft Exchange. iOS 4 took that further by including security and management capabilities well beyond anything available for Android and Windows Phone and second only to RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). And unlike RIM, companies deploying the iPhone and iPad don’t have to worry about all their data be routed through Waterloo, Ontario (or the potential for serious outages).
There are also some important technology trends that dovetail with Apple’s vision of user-empowered workplaces. Technical trends like cloud computing, social networking, and desktop virtualization are helping everyone – knowledge workers and IT professionals alike – reimagining the workplace for the 21st century.
All of which are lending more and more support to Apple-influenced cultural shifts that are all about empowering professionals to work anywhere at any time, to feel more comfortable in choosing the best tools for their jobs, to problem solve through their personal and professional networks, and to take charge of their careers in ways never before possible. These attitudes point the way to the future of the workplace since they are the attitudes and values that a new generation of digital natives, who have grown up in a world where the Internet and broadband have always existed, are bringing into the workplace.
Apple and the consumerization of IT are a combined force that is rapidly changing our relationship to technology and to our careers. Most importantly that force is radically reshaping the information technology field and leading to a new era in business/IT interactions – an era where the user comes first. That’s a big and very radical idea for management, IT, and everyone else to come to terms with.
Like most revolutionary changes in the world, these are empowering for professionals in every sector (including IT) but like other major shifts in work and culture, they can also be messy, confusing, and a little scary because there isn’t anything else quite like this transformation in our history.
That’s what I’m here for as Cult of Mac’s new business reporter – to make sense of the changes that Apple is inspiring in workplaces around the globe. As a former IT director, systems/network administrator (managing both Apple’s enterprise solutions like OS X Server and more mainstream offerings like Microsoft’s Active Directory), and consultant I’ve seen organizations take the culture and tech changing steps to make iPhones, iPads, and Macs in the workplace a reality. And I’ve seen the incredible potential those devices can unlock in any workplace environment from schools and colleges to hospitals to insurance companies to retail outlets.
My job is to help you navigate this amazing new and sometimes confusing business world. Whether you’re an IT professional who has never had to support Apple technologies before, a longtime Mac systems administrator, an executive learning how to use the iPad and iPhone as critical tools in and out of the office, or one of the millions of people using a Mac or iOS device to unlock new potential in your career.
This is a new landscape and it’s filled with new adventures. Let’s start exploring.