Consumerization of IT – Happily Turning Enterprise IT on its Head

The proliferation and acceptance of cloud computing has had a lasting effect on enterprise IT, and it’s still early in that evolution.   But as we look at the changing expectations of our users, the transformation is being led by a more comprehensive trend; the Consumerization of IT.  This trend has changed how IT leaders, business executives, managers, and all employees throughout an organization think about IT at work.   All of this has turned Enterprise IT on its head, and we’re better off for it.

There have been wonderful advances in the technology available to us in our daily lives (consumers), led by Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Vine, Dropbox, Instagram, etc..  How we view and use technology has changed as technology has become pervasive in our daily lives.  The advancement of consumer oriented technologies, and their encroachment into enterprise IT, have evolved over the last 10 years.  Initially led by Blackberry with the first really useful hand-held mobile device, followed by Apple and the innovative and easy to use iPhone, employees now expect the same access, simplicity, and pleasant user interfaces at work as they have at home.  As technology has also become intertwined in our daily lives, the consumer driven devices we use are becoming standard at work, and the tools and expectations have blended together.

What this means for Enterprise IT is that we as IT leaders need to understand how this affects our employees and the heightened expectations of our users. CIO’s need to understand this shift and embrace it.  Most CIO’s I know get this and have done just that over the last few years, but there are many that aren’t seeing what’s happening.  They look at it from the perspective of the secure walls of enterprise IT being torn down.  The safe zone is being intruded upon.  CIO’s can’t think this way and they will be left behind and replaced if they continue to do this.

Specifically, the Consumerization of IT has changed the expectation levels of users in the following ways:

  1. The applications used at work. The apps we deliver for our users can no longer be filled with endless features but short on usability.  An easy and clean UI is essential.  Uncluttered with clear menus is a must, as is a quick and intuitive search capability (hello Microsoft – SharePoint search sucks). Simplicity is key and browser-based design is expected.
  2. The devices our employees use for work.  BYOD has become standard as employees no longer want multiple devices for their work and home lives, nor do they want the heavy bricks affectionately called work laptops.  Tablets and slim laptops are in high demand, while Blackberries have dwindled or gone away.  Oh, and everyone now seems to require 2 monitors to work.  Additionally, some companies are now providing employees with yearly stipends to purchase devices of their choosing.  This has created turmoil for internal help-desk functions, but then again our younger users don’t need nor want our help.
  3. Increased expectations for mobile and remote accessibility. As the line has blurred between work and home life, accessing business services while commuting, traveling, or working from home has increased exponentially.  Our users are checking emails, looking for files, accessing applications, and providing enhanced customer support from any location, at any time.  Therefore, our applications and services must be easily and simply available on these devices at all times.
  4. The speed in delivering new and enhanced solutions.  Elongated, half-year development programs are too long.  If users have to wait 6 months for new development, they’re just as likely to go off and procure a cloud app themselves to meet their needs.  This might happen anyway (more on that another time), but there is no reason why internal IT can’t be agile too, delivering cloud apps or quick, simple enhancements in a shorter and iterative fashion.

Huge transformations are happening within enterprise IT because of these factors and CIO’s needs to understand this and embrace it.  No more of the IT bottleneck or the refusal to accept the convergence of consumer expectations.  If they don’t accept these changes, their replacements will.