Really interesting to read this article in BusinessWeek. It tells the tale of Unilever, the massive company that brings us such staple items as Vaseline(!)

It seems Unilever is realising that the college graduates they’re trying to attract simply cannot function within a rigidly locked-down IT infrastructure, where outside-the-firewall IM, social networking sites and the like are banned.

It reminds me of a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend who then worked within a large IT business in New Zealand. I suggested we chat on Skype – he laughed at me, incredulous that I’d even consider that Skype would be allowed within his organisation (you know who you are 🙂 ).

Apparently though Unilever’s CTO Chris Turner realised this level of control would become increasingly difficult to maintain if they wanted to attract new hires. He therefore created "consumerization architect" roles within the organisation tasked with "get[ting] involved in trying to make a difference." These consumerization architects are charged with spreading the use of popular—and in many cases free—technology.

As an example they are looking into letting employees install webcams so they can confer by videoconference and cut down on travel time. (Which shows that they’re only five years or so behind the times).

Unilever is still testing how to give employees more digital freedom. It may move users outside the corporate firewall and allow them to connect via their own computers, provided they’re using certain security technologies. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the savings could be millions of dollars. "We see this as a real opportunity to start altering the cost model to deliver IT" says Turner.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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