Consumerisation of IT
By J. Scott Tapp
March 24, 2010
If today's consumers can snowboard, surf and skydive at home, why should we expect them to crawl on their hands and knees in the workplace? It's an apt analogy for the predicament many IT leaders find themselves in today. The ease of using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn and the myriad iPhone apps have dramatically influenced employee expectations - particularly those in the Millennial Generation - about the technology they use at work.
Technology-industry thought leaders coined the phrase "the consumerization of IT" more than five years ago, and the trend - where technology companies bring new technology to the consumer market ahead of the business market - is more pervasive than ever. It continues to change the way people collaborate in the workplace - and who can blame them? New devices and new apps are easy to use and available anytime. When you can instantly get a group together on Facebook or Basecamp and start getting work done, why play by IT's rules, filling out forms in triplicate and going through multiple processes to get a workplace app that serves the same purpose?
The problem, of course, is that this "to-heck-with-IT-I'll-do-it-myself" approach is wreaking havoc on the enterprise:
- Compromised network integrity
- Sharing of intellectual property outside company walls
- Emergency help requests for unsupported applications
The consumerization of IT is even influencing employee recruitment and retention. For example, I know a lot of great software developers who insist on using the Mac platform and refuse to work for a company that won't accommodate it.
The trend has raised the bar on enterprise applications - not only in terms of ease of access and availability, but also in terms of the user experience. IT execs must give users what they want and do it quickly, or continue to watch as people bring in the devices and apps they use at home. When that happens, an enterprise can become Balkanized and increasingly siloed in an era where the successful players are the ones that tear down walls, not build them up.
Meet User Expectations Head-On
Especially when it comes to collaboration, large global organizations can dramatically increase productivity if they develop standardized tools that meet today's user expectations. It can be done without fighting a war with your users, and without attempting to support all the consumer devices and apps they want to use.
We worked with a global company recently to create and manage an engaging, standardized portal that makes it as easy for employees to schedule and start meetings - incorporating web collaboration, video and other tools into the mix - as it is to use a stapler or a Scotch tape dispenser.
What made it happen? The company recognized it had to meet user expectations head-on. It brought in a managed services provider to give its users great collaborative tools, effectively steering them away from making their own technology choices. Employees still like their iPhones, but they also appreciate the fact that the company's BlackBerries® use a system that is much more efficient in helping them collaborate with colleagues in Japan, Italy, North America, etc. In so doing, the company has eliminated the chaos that the consumerization of IT is bringing to other companies around the world.
J. Scott Tapp
Executive VP, Sales and Marketing