Chairmen, chief executives, sales directors, even finance directors. Senior executives are not renowned for their love of technology. But over the past 18 months a single device has become a permanent fixture in most of their jacket pockets and bags. The BlackBerry remote email PDA has become the iPod of the executive classes, conveying power (‘I simply can’t be out of email contact’), importance (‘I am one of the few in the company to get one’) and decision-making prowess (‘Nothing happens without my say-so’).
But while plenty of IT executives are also users (often seeing it as a glorified pager), in their eyes the honeymoon period for the BlackBerry is well and truly over.
One reason is that the high profile of the BlackBerry user is causing some unforeseen issues for the IT organisation. Aside from the sheer cost of supporting remote devices, the organisation’s most senior executives now expect to be able to receive and send email anytime, day or night.
As one CIO that Information Age spoke to explains, if his CEO has not heard his BlackBerry buzz for the last 15 minutes, he gets on the phone and calls the IT department, demanding to know what is wrong with the email system. More often than not, there’s nothing wrong – rather, no one has emailed the CEO for a while or he has weak network coverage.
This phenomenon is not only an irritant, it has impacted the perception of IT. All of a sudden, there is a new, backroom application that is considered (at least in the eyes of the user) to be mission critical. If the remote email system is not up and running constantly, the IT department is considered to be failing.
Is remote email really that vital to an organisation’s well being? There are certainly people that need to be constantly in touch. But a straw poll of CIOs by Information Age reporters came up with the universal opinion that remote email was useful (sometimes) and exciting (occasionally), but about as mission critical as PowerPoint on a PDA.
However, when your performance is being measured on the basis of email availability, it is easy for your viewpoint to be swayed.
Editor: Kenny MacIver