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Q&A: Managing Mobility and Reassessing the Importance of BYOD

How to find value beneath the BYOD hype.

[Editor's note: This article was originally published by Enterprise Management 360° and is reprinted by permission. It has been edited slightly from its original form.]

Enterprise mobility is a hot topic of late and has transformed the way companies are working and interacting with customers. No longer chained to a desk and "normal" working hours, employees are enjoying the benefits of trends such as BYOD including IKEA's CIO, Paolo Cinelli. He shares some observations with EM360˚ on finding the value beneath this hyped trend that is appearing on a bill which the customer ultimately foots.

EM360˚: Paolo, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what your role is in the enterprise management sector?

Paolo Cinelli: My career is primarily in IT management and I am an Italian living in the Netherlands but I have also lived in several other countries. After over 20 years in consumer goods, I moved to the retail industry, and I am really enjoying the transformations that IT enables with big brands.

How have you found that transformation going from B2B to retail?

Very interesting because the B2B consumer goods industry gives you a really solid background in efficiency, work structures, processes, information structures, etc. What I have found extremely interesting in the retail part is the contact with the customer -- the direct contact; that gives you real clarity of what is adding value. Interactions with them and the organization can give you a real sense of priority.

Would you say that retail customers can be more demanding or critical?

I think they are the same customers that buy beer from Heineken or detergents from P&G and Unilever, where I worked before. It is actually the same customers, the same people, but you have more information, you have indeed a sense of what their immediate needs are, what triggers there are, what they are willing to buy and not buy -- you gain a different perception much closer to the real world.

Moving on to your role within IKEA; in your keynote speech at the CIO Event in November 2013, you dismissed the impact of the bring your own device (BYOD) trend which is something that IKEA has internally implemented with its departmental managers. Why have you shown such a degree of discredit towards this trend?

Rather than discredit, I would call it a normal way of looking at the technology trend. Of course, it is not something to ignore but to be put in the context of the total evolution of technology and mainly the needs of the business, the needs of the customers in terms of what can add value. BYOD is one of the things we are doing and it does require certain investments; but if you asked customers what they are willing to pay for the investments that are required to get our executives and managers equipped to bring their own device, what would they answer? I am not sure.

There is a weaker link to the customer value than things with other priorities such as multichannel and e-commerce. Having said that, there are many opportunities to provide coworkers with modern technology. For example, we released Yammer which is an internal social media platform -- all our employees who have an e-mail account can now invite colleagues and external parties into it, create groups, and exchange questions and information. That gives in itself much more value than BYOD. In fact, it works on any device by the way because it is a cloud service, but the device is not the key here.

Do you believe that mobility poses a threat to data governance?

A threat? No, I don't think so. Mobility gives us more opportunities and then, of course, we have also to define what it means, mobility. For instance, we have a number of colleagues (especially management, team leaders, etc.) for whom mobility means travelling, visiting other places or being able to work anywhere and interacting with their colleagues. For people who work in the stores, mobility means something else -- it means being able to move about the store and carry with them the information they need to be able to help the customers. There are different forms of mobility that actually provide many good opportunities.

According to Gartner, the continued growth of enterprise telecom services, the increased usage of smart devices, driven by the use of video, Internet access, and wireless technologies are prompting many companies to look to telecom expense management (TEM) and mobile device management (MDM) services to enable more efficient procurement and support, as well as to manage cost more effectively. Is this what you are seeing?

Well, if you ask me, do we spend more in absolute terms in telecommunication costs than before? The answer is probably yes, but so far it has not come to our attention as a concern.

It is more as an investment because we see that by investing more in telecommunication bandwidth and other aspects of it, we actually open up more possibilities. An example -- and I wish we had started it earlier -- is that we are opening up public Internet access in our stores and that is actually very appreciated by the customers, by the coworkers, and it gives us more possibilities. That is something that perhaps nowadays is just the norm but which does increase telecom costs, however, it is so valuable and appreciated by the customers that it is worth taking it. The other thing that it does is increase visitation because it is another attraction in going to the store and spending time there, spending time in the restaurant whilst browsing on your iPad, etc.

"I need a sofa, but I also have some e-mails to do, and my kids are hungry, where can I go?" Yes, I can see how it brings a more holistic approach to the shopping experience. Moving on slightly, how do you think you can achieve perfect governance? You said that people expect IKEA to have strong governance. Do you think there is more to it than meets the eye?

Yes, I think there is no such thing as perfect governance. I think actually that I would even advise to keep a critical eye on it so that the attitude is to try and improve it all the time. Of course, it is important to have a clear structure, so what is governance? If I call it decision making, it is a way for the company to make decisions and hopefully the right decisions, so I think it means to get clarity on who designs what, in what format, with what processes, and according to what criteria.

That is important and that is something that you shouldn't change too often. Once you have decided and clarified all those things, the key effort is actually about compliance, making sure people do follow those governance rules, and they not only follow them blindly just because there is a document that says this is the rule, but more understand why, and the rationale behind it.

From an employee perspective, what would you say are the prime people skills that are needed in a successful data governance model?

I would start with one of the most difficult things to find in people in general, which is leadership and I take a broad definition. It starts with self leadership, people that are able to discipline themselves and know what to challenge and what to follow with spirit and understand their possibilities, their challenges, and also their limitations -- respecting the way such a big company has to be governed.

We have another typical issue I think in IT reflected in IKEA, which is in terms of diversity. That is another huge challenge for us. If you look at the conference (CIO Event), it speaks for itself in terms of gender diversity. ... The first time when I sat and we started the event, I was sitting on the panel desk and in the very first minute, I looked at the room [where there were very few women] and that is the first thing I immediately thought about.

How do you feel that women can change or enhance the IT world?

Definitely balancing the typical approach that we have. It is proven now by many research articles and efforts that a diverse balanced leadership team has better results because of the varied skill sets -- the natural tendencies of men and women to balance and complement each other so the result is better than having single gender teams or minority against majority. I can confirm that I have never noticed any discrimination, conscious or even unconscious in terms of a recruiting selection, but we need to do something to change. It is not enough to say, "Well, it just happened -- where are all the women IT leaders? Please come forward, we need you!"

Finally, what do you see in the future for mobility?

I don't know if the future is going to be much different than the present in terms of being able to do your work wherever you are, at your preference of times, being able to get in touch with others in a simpler way, having much more information available to you when you are on the move wherever you are. For these kinds of things the technology is already there.

Nowadays you can approve expense reports on the move, have a Web meeting on the move on your smartphone whether it is your device [or] the company device. You can Yammer, you can utilize any kind of social network; it could be that we come to a point of saturation where we become actually much more selective of what we are looking at. I am not sure that this is potentially good, but I'm not on Twitter at all, and I am not using Facebook -- apparently that is not even trendy anymore, so I am fine with that! But again, the main reason I am not using those things is that you have to make a choice. You only have 24 hours in a day. You have to eat, you have to sleep, you have your family.

About the Speaker

Paolo Cinelli is the group chief information officer at IKEA. Information technology supports IKEA's global business operations from supply chain and product development to retail and Web presence. Mr. Cinelli's role is to ensure that through a business-driven strategy, IKEA derives the best value from its IT investment. Before joining IKEA in 2009, he was group chief information officer at Heineken International B.V. for four years, during which time he led a significant IT transformation. Prior to that, Mr. Cinelli served for four years as IT service delivery director for European Services at Unilever, and earlier held various positions at Procter & Gamble for 14 years.

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