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Embracing consumerization: An early adopter Q&A

A CIO knew his employees would flock to the iPad, so he wasted no time in supporting it. But he also realized mobile and cloud weren’t a magic pill.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Consumer technology won’t solve all enterprise woes. It’s up to IT to figure out where and how certain devices and services will fit in.

Boston Scientific Corp., a Natick, Mass.-based medical device manufacturer, started that process shortly after Apple released the first iPhone, and things really shifted into high gear once the iPad debuted. Since then, the company has deployed 5,500 iPads to its sales and marketing staff and allowed another 500 iPads to access corporate resources through a bring your own device program, chief information officer (CIO) Rich Adduci said.

Adduci discussed his company’s approach to the consumerization of IT in an interview at this week’s MIT CIO Symposium. He talked about the benefits and challenges of embracing this trend early on, the various approaches to mobile application delivery and how IT can help organizations by keeping up with new technology.

A couple different panelists mentioned the role of legacy applications and legacy hardware and how it can hinder IT from moving forward and adopting things like cloud and mobile. Is that something you agree with?

Somebody put it in one of the panels well: Cloud is just another engine for driving IT. … At the end of the day, cloud -- or really, the elements that you’d call cloud -- has really been around as long as computing itself. So I don’t really see it necessarily as some great revolution.

People too easily throw out legacy applications and the investment in legacy applications almost like it’s a boat anchor. … But I think it’s a bit of an over-steer to suggest that all legacy applications hinder you around mobility or cloud.

So is the challenge there just getting that value from legacy apps and getting them to be compatible and integrated with the new ways of doing things?

Right, and also … oftentimes people sort of jump to, “everything should be mobile or cloud-based.” The reality is, that doesn’t really make sense. There’s a good use for those tools, but it’s really, “what job are you trying to take care of?” And in some cases, a mobile solution or a cloud-based solution makes sense. In other cases, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

We have 70 [iPad] apps or so. We think probably by the end of the year we’ll have a hundred, so we’ve seen lots of growth there.

Are those apps that you’ve developed in-house or external apps or a combination?

It’s a mixture. We’ve done some internal. We’ve done some with integrators. We’ve done some with third-party marketing, ad agency kinds of people.

Is your sole focus on apps for your users, or do you have other ways of delivering applications to the iPad and other mobile devices, like desktop virtualization or cloud apps?

When I look at desktop virtualization, the way I think about that is, it’s not necessarily a great idea. … If I need to provide access to a set of legacy apps, and I for whatever reason can’t render that in a form that’s tolerable on the iPad, I might have to desktop-virtualize it. … It’s really a great way to make a great device not very great and very frustrating to work with.

Where we already have service providers that are in the cloud, we are pushing them with all of our might towards serving mobile platforms. The more innovative ones are doing that. Others are not, and we’re leaving.

How has the move towards mobility and consumerization as a whole affected your job as a CIO?

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MIT CIO Symposium photos

When the iPad came out, something funny happened. I called a bunch of people around the table to talk about it, and I would say the majority of people were not supportive of adopting the iPad. … I, with a couple of the other folks, said, “boy, this looks like an exceptional fit for our sales teams, and one that they’re going to drive adoption on whether we like it or not.” So why wouldn’t we be on the front end of that, really helping drive adoption in a thoughtful, productive way?

We said, “this is going to be the turning point for us, where we as an organization are going to be more innovative. We’re going to keep our eye on technology and ideas. ... We should be the people embracing technology.” And I think the reaction from the business has been overwhelmingly positive.

Let us know what you think about this story; email Colin Steele or follow @colinsteele on Twitter.

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