This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.

Being in my mid 40s automatically makes me a fan of 80s music. There was a Bonnie Tyler song that had lyrics that went “Where have all the good men gone and where are all the Gods? Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds? Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?”

Despite her incredibly bad 80s hair, it was a pretty good song and reminds me a lot of my IT days back in the 90s. We were those white knights on steeds and were viewed as the all-knowing, all-powerful IT group – The Q (Star Trek reference) of our generation. Now, the dirty little IT secret was that we engineered it to be that way. IT procured all the devices, all the applications and controlled the entire end-to-end experience. If a user experienced a problem, IT could ride in on its steed and quickly solve the problem because IT owned the entire lifecycle of the application, so troubleshooting, while difficult, was doable.

Enter today’s era of technology and IT’s worst fears have been realized – consumerization is here. I would say going into 2011 the majority of CIOs still didn’t fully support “bring your own device.” Maybe one out of every four or five did. Today, almost every CIO I talk to supports it. In fact, I’ve recently done a number of CIO/IT manager lunch and learns, and no matter what topic we start discussing, within 15 minutes we were talking about BYOD.

From my discussions, though, I know that most of the focus of BYOD has been on onboard consumer devices such as smartphones and iPads. Mobile device management (MDM) has also become a big trend to enable IT to find lost devices, kill lost ones, provision software, etc. However, there’s a big piece of the BYOD puzzle that’s still missing that could turn IT from a hero into a goat if not handled correctly. That piece is understanding the user experience.

To understand, let’s walk through a scenario. Take a mid-sized organization with a typical limited IT staff and a user population that is clamoring for BYOD. IT then on-boards a few hundred iPads, MacBooks and smartphones and the users are happy. However, once the workers start using many of the rich media and real-time features, like Facetime, all hell is going to break loose on the corporate network. Instead of having nice, predictable traffic flows from applications that IT controls, users will be watching videos, conferencing with one another, sharing files, etc., all without much IT control. They wanted freedom and IT gave it to them. So IT is now the hero! Yay!

However, if the experience isn’t monitored effectively and the troubleshooting tools aren’t in place, IT will face a situation where there are more users with more devices experiencing applications problems that can’t be resolved as easily. Now IT is the goat. Boo!

How does IT combat this problem and stay in the hero camp? The first step is to know your IT environment. Does IT have the tools in place to truly know what users are doing, where they are doing it, what kind of traffic it creates, where the saturation points are, and what services are virtual, cloud-based or mobile? If you’re using one of the legacy management frameworks like Unicenter or OpenView, my bet is probably not. These are legacy, old-school tools designed for an era of total IT control. What’s required today is a management strategy that can span the virtual and physical world, wired and wireless networks and consumer and corporate devices and give an end-to-end view of what’s going on. The legacy frameworks need to be replaced with products from vendors like Xangati, Gigamon, Netscout and Riverbed. There isn’t a single solution to solve all of today’s problems, but the above-mentioned vendors can all help IT remain heroes, and keep them from becoming goats.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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