Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The ever increasing wave of Consumerization of IT is driven by employees who are purchasing their own devices and demanding access to systems and data. They may be from home, at the client site, or on the road. IT is capitulating to meet user demand. This “purchasing” and associative “demand” as the driving force behind the Consumerization of IT is consistently repeated throughout the press, blogosphere, and twitter. Yet hardware purchases by employees have been around for a number of years – netbooks are a great example of this – but there was not much talk of the Consumerizatoin of IT. Why begin now? Additionally, IT has historically leaned toward the side of standardized hardware with secure and limited access over extensive device support with wide system access. Why the big change now? What is so special about the devices employees are buying that it would make sense to change best practices? The difference lies in the fact that laptops, netbooks, and first generation tablets fit nice and neat into the current understanding of systems interaction. They offered no challenge to the status quo of how we work. For all their portability they were a tethered desktop user-interface experience.
When you boil it down the Consumerization of IT has everything to do with how we interact with systems and very little to do with the “who” is purchasing them and what they are asking for. Furthermore, the explosive growth in the Consumerization of IT is driven by the latest versions of smartphones and their access to the cloud ecosystem (i.e. apps and data). As a result of the phone’s size and form factor there is a willingness to completely step away from the desktop user-interface norm and reimagine user interaction with systems, data, and processes. This is the primary driver behind the seismic shift being attributed to the Consumerization of IT. It really should be a capabilities discussion rather than a purchasing one. We are restructuring the way we work by greatly simplifying systems interactions and we can’t get enough of it.
The Consumerization of IT is happening because we, as IT professionals, want it to as much as “consumers” do and we kid ourselves otherwise. Big deal you say – who cares – so what if I want it as much (probably even a little more) than everyone else? Here is why this is important – If we are locked into the mindset that the Consumerization of IT is just about who purchased the device and wants to use it for access to the network, then we run the chance of failing to fully examine all the possibilities of working beyond our current experience. If our best root-cause explanation for Consumerization of IT is because of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) then we are not prepared to take full advantage of a potentially better way of doing things though improved, simpler, and reimagined user interfaces connected to the private and public Cloud. The big lie in the Consumerization of IT is that it doesn’t’ really have anything to do with consumers and has much more to do with how we work – and more appropriately how we want to work. So why do we continue to talk about it as a procurement and request proposition?
The from factor of these devices demand a simpler more intuitive way of interaction. This in itself will drive efficiency. It doesn’t mean that all processes are a good fit for this new approach but many are and many can benefit dramatically from this re-envisioned approach. So don’t be afraid to be imaginative and think about your business, its systems, and processes anew. Approach this opportunity in a holistic manner rather than through hodge-podge requests. Where could you go as an organization? How can you leverage improved system interactions to get ahead internally? How could you use it to get ahead of your competition? Remember, if we accept that at the root of the Consumerization of IT is recognizing there is a potentially improved way of systems interaction, then what can we do to engage the workforce, make them better at what they do, and make your clients really want to do business with you? What is going to make you stand out? How are you currently living the lie of Consumerization of IT? Are you just reacting to user demands or are you seizing the opportunity? How are you letting it drive your thinking? Own the way forward and lead the charge ahead of your “consumers”!