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Consumerisation of IT

Innovation is emerging from outside the firewall targeted at consumers first and creating an opportunity for the enterprise second. I see the safe utilisation of this technology innovation as a ‘win/win’ for both employees and the enterprise.

MultiplicityThere is a growing trend that has accelerated over the last few years in IT. A trend where innovation of new products and application services emerge in the consumer world first; and are introduced to the enterprise second – perhaps the most noticeable example being Apple’s iPad.  I believe that this trend creates both an opportunity: for enterprises to seek to leverage and utilise consumer-led innovation; as well as a threat: to ensure that these technologies are used safely and securely. This phenomenon, which the Economist recently referred to in its special report on Personal Technology as as the democrotisation of IT, is commonly referred to as the Consumerisation of IT.



A collective catalyst:
The increasing availability of the internet, growth of smart mobile computing devices and associated Apps and the revised provisioning model of Cloud-based technologies collectively have acted as a catalyst whereby digital technology can more easily be presented, utilised and afforded by the consumer.  I think this investment in the consumer innovation can be harnessed by the enterprise in a way that will result in employee benefit: being able to use preferred technologies at work as well as privately; and enterprise benefit: unlocking the benefits of an ever connected mobile workforce, enabled with smarter devices that make it easier to collaborate.  Let’s examine some of the underlying factors I see driving consumerisation IT:

– Near-ubiquitous connectivitywe are able to connect to the web on the move with increasing speed and bandwidth and from a multitude of smart devices.  We are now living lives where we are nearly always connected.

– Mobile device capability – the devices we choose to connect with have become more capable and affordable. 

– Smartphone usage is growing fast, Gartner estimates 1 billion will be sold in 2015 up from 468m this year and the number of tablet shipments is growing rapidly.

– Digital vogue – I am seeing a growing number of my clients adapting and complementing their traditional value chains to deliver digital and information based products and services to their customers, a trend I see continuing to grow in this digital age.

– Multiplicity of Apps – Apps, readily downloadable mini-applications, are available to support our growing plethora of requirements.  Whatever functionality you need on your smartphone or tablet there is now more than likely an App for that.

– The Cloud – Cloud-based applications, or Software as a Service (SaaS), make applications and back-end supporting technologies such as document sharing immediately and universally available to the connected consumer and their multi-tenanted model means that their costs is distributed across multiple tenants making them affordable.

– More social online – we are becoming more social online with social networking applications, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ where the number of users are growing, Facebook at more than 800m active users, with more 350m access Facebook through their mobile devices (Facebook, 2011).

– Employees expectations – Digital Natives, those ‘born digital’ or born after the general introduction of digital technology are moving into senior positions in organisations and Generation Y, a generation that many believe excel at collaboration, are entering the workforce.  Employees therefore not just wish, but growingly expect, to be able to use digital technologies at work.

– Already in use – your employees, customers, suppliers are probably already using these technologies.  I have seen from my engagements with clients that employees are using these technologies already in your organisation, commonly known as Shadow IT.

These factors in my view have created an opportunity for the enterprise, one that I see as ‘win/win’. There are however some common challenges to realising the benefits to keep in mind:

1. Not providing choice – what’s right for one part of the enterprise might not be right for another;

2. Responding too slowly – in many enterprises, business units may have already gone or may ‘go it alone’ – officially or unofficially – if IT delays and does not offer a safe and secure way to utilise these technologies in time;

3. Forgetting business change – Don’t just focus on the technologies and security aspects, business change is fundamental to help encourage and right behaviors and assist employees to use these digital technologies effectively and securely.

In summary, it is not about preventing employees using these technologies it is about harnessing their use safely and securely.  Employees can gain through being able to use the devices and software of their choice; enterprises gain by leveraging their employees increasing mobile ability and ability to collaborate – collectively helping the enterprise to succeed in this exciting digital age.

Categories: CIO Agenda, Strategy & Innovation, Technology, Trends
Mark O'Loughlin

Mark is a member of the IT Leadership Practice, an executive consultant who specialises in leading IM&T strategy and IS and IT enabled business transformation projects. He is currently leading a programme of IT enabled business change projects for a large UK private sector construction organisation. A strong advocate of ensuring organisations realise the maximum business value from IM&T investments, Mark is a strategic thinker who excels at linking IT strategy and IT development to business strategy and requirements. Mark is comfortable at engaging senior business stakeholders and leading and challenging engagement teams.