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CIOs: Empower Your Employees' Use of Consumer Tech

By Ted Schadler, CIO
August 31, 2010 06:00 PM ET

CIO - How empowered are your employees to solve customer and business problems? What's your role in empowering them? These questions are often absent from IT's mission, but not from the minds of those it serves.

Sales folks mine every resource, including Facebook, to convince customers to buy. They already know iPads are great devices for pitching business. Marketing uses Google Docs or Smartsheet to better work with agencies. Customer service gets a needy customer to videotape the broken compressor controls so a remote engineer can see the problem. These are the actions of empowered employees.

Companies that empower their employees to use these tools have a leg up on those that lock down systems. I think so, anyway. Best Buy empowers employees. Circuit City didn't. Circuit City's dead; Best Buy thrives.

So what percentage of your employees are empowered? Based on our survey of over 4,000 U.S. information workers, only 20 percent are HEROes-highly empowered and resourceful operatives. These employees feel empowered and act resourcefully with mobile, social, video and cloud technologies. Thirty-four percent are locked down, feeling empowered but unable to act on it. Thirteen percent are rogue employees, using unsanctioned technology but not feeling empowered to solve customer problems. And 34 percent are disenfranchised, neither feeling empowered nor acting resourcefully.

It's the HERO employees you need to find and support. Strike a new deal with them: You will help them with technology solutions that safely scale up to the enterprise if they accept responsibility for keeping you in the loop, funding the technology, managing the business risk and educating employees on appropriate use. It's this new contract between IT, managers and employees that makes empowerment possible.

You have a critical role to play. Employees will adopt new technology solutions with or without you, but they don't have your security acumen, purchasing power and operational ability. It's better to help out HEROes, and helping them could be what makes you an IT hero.

Ted Schadler is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. He is the co-author of Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, Transform Your Business. For more on the book, see " What We're Reading from the September 15 Issue of CIO Magazine."

Read more about knowledge management (km) in CIO's Knowledge Management (KM) Drilldown.

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