The strategy of passing a task on to someone else to complete when it proves too difficult is one that makes perfect sense. Obviously, many others do too – it explains the success of consultants, the ongoing growth of the outsourcing industry and reiterates the importance of PAs. But a recent technology pilot by oil behemoth BP surprised even me.
It began when Jim Ginsburgh, vice-president for enterprise architecture at BP, noticed he was getting a better computing experience at home than he was in the office and decided to do something about it.
Assuming that many staff would share his feelings, he introduced a programme where, on receipt of an allowance, staff could buy their own computing equipment. The catch? Those who opted to join the scheme would have to take responsibility for all the support issues it created.
Obviously, for such a scheme to work – and be of benefit to BP rather than create more IT chaos – it has to be extremely closely controlled. For example, users must possess a reasonable level of computer literacy; only staff in suitable job roles are offered the chance to join and security is handled with great care (indeed, employees must adhere to strict levels of best practice, while access to BP’s enterprise network and systems is available only through a secure portal).
But the pilot programme shows some vision and bravery on the part of Ginsburgh and is an excellent example of recognising which aspects of technology the average enterprise can afford to let go of. After all, why would any firm want to be burdened with the support issues of their employees’ desktop machines and PDAs when they seem quite capable of looking after their own equipment at home?
While the immediate benefits of the pilot programme may not be obvious, Ginsburgh could be on to something. Not only does it have the immediate result of removing an IT support overhead from the business, but employees feel empowered for having direct control over their own technology. It should also improve their computing experience, which is directly linked to productivity.
BP is not the only company that has realised that behaving like a nanny state has only negative consequences. In November, more than 80 per cent of short-haul passengers who used Heathrow Terminal 4 took advantage of British Airways’ online, self-service check-in rather than the more traditional purgatory that many of us have to go through while waiting at an average airport check-in line. The airline has also handed its employees more independence by providing tools that allow staff to manage much of their day-to-day administrative tasks remotely over the internet.
In fact, it appears that there is a minor revolution going on in the corporate world, one which is being enabled by technology. Take the retail sector, where the rise of self-service cash tills in supermarkets is another example of how businesses have recognised the value in allowing people to do things for themselves. Although it is difficult to understand why some retailers introduced self-service tills complete with expensive electronic signature pads just before chip and pin came into force.
In a world where we are hardly trusted to tie our own shoelaces without coming up against some kind of safety regulation, it is gratifying to see the world of business and technology handing back some autonomy to staff and customers. After all, a lack of trust is a negative ingredient in any relationship.
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View photos of last night's awards ceremony in London
View photos of all the winners from the 2018 Channel Awards
After a glittering awards evening in Battersea celebrating 25 years of the Awards, we are pleased to share the list of winners and judges' commended winners