How to Embrace the Consumerization of IT – Part II - Page 1

Feb 27, 2012

Daniel Burrus

It used to be that any change in an organization would flow from the top down. For example, the C-suite would decide that a new computer system was needed or that a new policy should be enacted, and the mandate would trickle all the way down to the frontline workers. Sure, it would get resistance along the way, but eventually the change took place just as the leaders wanted.

Today, especially when it comes to the consumerization of IT, the change process is quite different.

What we’re seeing now is a “bottom-up” approach, where the end user (the employee) is pressuring the CIO and other C-suite leaders to change; the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon as it is becoming known. As I mentioned in part one of How to Embrace the Consumerization of IT,  the consumerization of IT is extremely disruptive for the CIO. Not only is the change coming in the opposite direction from what the CIO is used to, but it’s also coming so fast that many CIOs are unsure what to do.

What’s really behind this consumerization of IT trend? In a word? Mobility.

Because of advances in bandwidth, storage, and processing power, the tools an average consumer can purchase are extremely powerful. Even as recent as 10 years ago, technology tools for the consumer weren’t that impressive and didn’t have much business application. As such, CIOs simply had to pronounce mandates like “No video games on your work computer,” or “Don’t bring in outside CD-ROMs,” and “No personal cell phones in the office” and the problem was solved (or so they thought).

Kicking it 'old school'

In the early days of consumerization, we didn’t have wireless data or cloud computing, much less the bandwidth, storage, and processing power to make things powerful so the threat was perceived as minimal. For example, even the early Blackberry wasn’t a true smart phone. It didn’t give you video, audio, or a browser. It was simply a phone and email tool -- something the CIO could easily control. 

But that was then, and this is now. Today, the average person can purchase, understand, and easily implement an array of new technologies designed to make work and life easier. Consider this:

  • Almost half of employees felt that their personal consumer devices and software are more useful than the tools and applications provided by their IT departments;
  • Almost half of employees felt comfortable and capable in making their own purchasing decisions to apply technology tools for work; and
  • Almost a third were willing to pay for their own devices and applications to use at work.

Now here’s what’s really eye-opening: Only 27 percent of executives have begun to address the consumerization issue in a structured way. Now it’s easier to see why the consumerization of IT trend is so disruptive.

This trend is not just in the United States, it’s global. In fact, the leaders in the consumerization trend are China and India followed by Brazil and Mexico. In other words, it’s spreading and growing rapidly. So if you’re one of the 73 percent of executives who has not addressed this trend yet, you need to do so now.

The big boost

What really gave the consumerization of IT a big push is Apple with their iPhone and iPad. Apple took the concept of a smartphone and raised it to a new level. Additionally, it launched the apps trend, which also started as a consumer oriented offering rather than a business one.

Now, with a small iPhone or iPad, consumers could have a true multimedia computer in their hand. Of course, competitors quickly came and launched even more consumer oriented powerful tools, making the trend grow quickly.

Armed with these new tools and the wide spread deployment of 3G and 4G wireless as well as Wi-Fi, employees quickly realized, “I don’t need to be tethered or plugged in. I can do my work wirelessly and remotely. And I can use amazingly powerful tools that I like better than the ones IT is providing me.” Remember, apps (even the business productivity ones) are inexpensive, easy to install, powerful, and focused. If you don’t like one, you can easily uninstall it with the push of a button. And, from the employee’s perspective, they know their job and what they need to do better than anyone in IT so why shouldn’t they decide what tools they use and how they use them?

This is why we often see business professionals with two devices: the one they want to use and the one their IT department is making them use. And while you may think your employees are always keeping the two devices separate, that they are always using their business device for business use and their personal one for personal use, think again. In a Unisys-sponsored research study of 2,660 information workers, researchers found that employees are bringing personal devices into the enterprise at an increasing rate. In fact, 40 percent of the devices they use to access business applications are personally owned. That’s a 10 percentage point increase from the previous survey year.

Additionally, the survey concurred with my statement that the increasing penetration of consumer technology in the enterprise is being driven by a desire for mobility. According to the findings, 53 percent of employees surveyed say that mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets are their most critical devices for doing work. This is up from 44 percent in 2010. In addition, 65 percent of employees say that a mobile device will be their most critical work device in 2012.

Despite this growing awareness, however, the research found that IT departments are falling further behind in the consumerization race. For example, employees report using their mobile devices for business purposes at twice the rate that IT executives believe to be the case (69 percent usage reported by employees versus 34 percent usage reported by IT executives). In addition, 44 percent of employees report using social media for customer communication, while only 28 percent of employers believe that to be the case.

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Tags: Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, consumerization of IT, Burrus Research,

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