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Mobile Trendsetter: Al Sacco, CIO.com

Whether you own your own business, serve as CIO for a large, enterprise organization, or you’re a technology provider, you know that mobile is changing the world we live in. Mobile devices are moving into the workplace, creating both challenges and opportunities for businesses and IT.

 

Al Sacco Head Shot low res.jpgTo kick off our Mobile Trendsetter Interview Series on HP’s Enterprise Services Blog, we met with Al Sacco, an award-winning journalist and blogger for CIO.com. If anyone has the pulse of what’s going on in the mobile space, it’s Al. He’s seen the mobile landscape evolve from the launch of Blackberry to today’s wearable technology. Ultimately, he helps CIOs and IT departments cut through the clutter and identify the mobile technologies that will positively impact their business.

 

Want to learn more? Check out our interview with Al and his recommendations for enterprise organizations, CIOs and IT:

 

Tell us about yourself; what is your role in the technology industry and how did you get here?

 

Al: I have a degree in journalism from Northeastern University, so first and foremost I’m a journalist. I started working with IDG a little over 10 years ago, and the last nine of the 10 years I’ve been here, I’ve been covering mobile specifically. I started off covering Blackberry—I was a Blackberry beat reporter for about six years—and that’s really how I started getting into the nuts and bolts of mobile and the smartphone scene. As the landscape has evolved, so has my coverage areas and focus. I’ve started covering smartphone platforms in general, and lately I’ve been focusing on wearable technology, which is closely related to trends with mobile devices. My expertise is really in devices and hardware.

 

As far as my role in the technology industry, I think it’s constantly evolving. But what we all try to do at CIO.com is serve as a filter for all of the noise out there, helping CIOs and the IT community identify the relevant information.

Most recently, how are mobile devices changing the way large organizations work?

 

Al: Well, over the last year or two, smartphones and tablets have really been ubiquitous in the enterprise. Now, CIOs and IT departments are over the initial challenges of supporting them, but they’re facing BYOD, where people want to use their own devices. IT departments have been tasked with addressing this trend. In the past, IT really had all of the control. They set up the devices and locked everything down—users did what IT staff needed them to do.

 

But now the power has really shifted to the consumer and users—they are looking to integrate their personal devices into the workplace. With this change, there really are no more traditional walls. Where people used to have to go to the office to do a certain task, they can do almost anything from their mobile devices.

 

And do you see these changes as improving productivity and efficiency, or creating greater challenges for IT?

 

Al: I think it’s definitely a double-edged sword. The integration of mobile devices is good in a lot of ways—if IT is doing their job the right way, mobile empowers employees to do their jobs even better. But, there are also inherent risks that are introduced if employees are using BYOD devices without a strategic approach.

 

What are some of those challenges enterprises are facing with BYODhow can they combat losing control?

 

Al: It’s really about balancing the risk with the reward. There is so much talk about BYOD and everyone is doing it, so sometimes IT departments jump into it without looking at it strategically and figuring out if it’s right for their organization. I think the biggest challenge for enterprises is separating the noise from the reality, and looking at BYOD strategically and addressing your own unique challenges.

 

You talked a bit about the consumerization of IT; can you talk about how it’s affecting workplaces?

 

Al: There are definitely two sides to consumerization. The BYOD and consumerization trends are very interconnected. In general, users are much savvier than they’ve been in the past. They are adopting new technologies, and technology is more affordable. People are using more gadgets and develop a routine based on those gadgets, and they want to be able to use them the way they want. And again, it’s definitely a double-edged sword. It’s great for helping people stay productive, but it’s often a challenge for IT. IT must ensure that the way employees are using devices is in line with workplace policy. It’s an evolving challenge.

 

As young millennials come into the workplace, they don’t remember a time when they didn’t have a smartphone. A lot of them are as tech savvy as some IT departments—they’re using technology all the time every day. It creates a whole new challenge for IT in determining how to wrangle these new users.

 

What are your tips for enterprises and IT departments looking to wrangle these tech-savvy millennials?

 

Al: It’s a complex issue, but it all starts with communication and explaining where IT is coming from. IT can’t come in with an iron fist and just say, “This is the way we do things.” It takes explaining why IT is making the decisions they are making, and fostering better communications with those tech-savvy employees.

 

The fact of the matter is if these employees want to use a device in the workplace or a specific technology, they’re going to find a way to use it. So just opening the lines of communication and helping employees understand the implications of their tech actions, then setting the IT department’s strategy around the fact that they’ll probably try to find workarounds.

 

What other big trends are you seeing in mobility right now?

 

Al: Wearable technology is what I see as the next big focus area. The amount of industry attention on wearable tech is huge, and I’m really starting to believe wearable tech is the next major change in mobile.

 

We’re also hearing a lot about the “internet of things”—this idea of everything having censors and collecting data from everywhere. It’s very interesting, and has notable implications for IT. The more data you collect the more data you need to protect, so security is a challenge. Also, figuring out a useful way to leverage the data is important, instead of just storing huge terabytes that you never use. So the internet of things is very interesting in terms of data collection.

 

Any other thoughts on mobile in the enterprise?

 

Al: Overall, this is a really interesting time for CIOs and IT in enterprise organizations. There is so much change, and the role of IT and the CIO has never been more important. There is a lot of opportunity for CIOs to demonstrate how technology can help other parts of their business. They used to just be the “IT guy,” but moving forward they will be challenged with expanding their role into other parts of the business.

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