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Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Consumerization is here and you have to deal with it

Datacenter, Management, Motivation, StrategyEdward KiledjianComment

What is consumerization

Consumerization is a term used to describe the trend where manufacturers release new innovative technologies in the consumer market before the corporate one.  Interestingly these same technologies then find their way into the corporate world through the employees. 

“Consumer IT will affect every enterprise" said David Mitchell Smith, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "Attempts by enterprises to deny this are doomed to failure, just as previous attempts to deny Wi-Fi, 'smart' mobile phones, the Internet and even the PC itself failed." -  

The above statement seems timely and clearly describes consumerization today. The only gotcha is that Gartner released this in a 2005 press release. So this change has been a long time coming but is finally and definitely here. 

Why

Many years ago, employees did not have reliable high speed internet connectivity at home. More often than not, a work PC was many times more powerful than any device you had at home. 

None of this is true today. Most people have Personal Computers at home and in most cases, they are many times more powerful than their work PC. The lines between traditional work and an employee’s personal life are blurring. Educated knowledge workers want the flexibility to manage their work as best fits their needs. 

This new breed of technical employee wants to bring their own laptop to work. They own a smartphone and tablet, which they believe makes them more productive. They would like to leverage these powerful technologies and bring its productivity to their workplace. Employees are increasingly familiar with cloud computing services and leverage social networking for collaboration.

The business reality

What employees don’t see is the strain these requests place on corporate IT. Talk about personal devices connecting to a corporate network and CIOs start to have nightmares related to  theft, compliance, Intellectual Property protection and risk management. Add to that the cost of supporting dozens of new devices and you have a mess CIOs are being asked to handle without best practices. 

What if one of these devices is stolen (which is very common) and contained company confidential data? Knowing that most of these consumer devices do not have “good” encryption makes the worries that much worse. 

IDC conducted a survey on behalf of Unisys about consumerization. Interestingly, 95% of the respondents acknowledge using technology [at work] that they had personally acquired. Another interesting tidbit was the fact that many employees thought their employers are more permissive [regarding the use of consumer technologies in the office] than the employers actually are. Communication anyone?

Born Digital

Anyone born in the last 15-20 years was “born digital”. By this I mean they grew up in a digital world learning the use of these technologies very early on. Now as adults graduating with the degrees companies need, they demand more. To attract and retain this new breed of qualified and desirable employee, you have to give them an environment they want to work in. A much less restrictive environment where facebook is allowed and a device can go from retail shelf to corporate office very quickly.  It's time to kiss that iphone and hug that iPad.

What is a company to do?

Standing in front of this train won’t do you any good. You will have to find a way to cope and manage this situation. 

  • As an IT executive, your first priority should be security. Instead of protecting the corporate perimeter, you will have to figure out how to protect individual pieces of corporate data. How do you ensure secure deletion of data if the employees leaves the company [with his device]?
  • Who is responsible for backup up the device?
  • How will you manage and support employee devices in your corporate environment. Most companies are ill equipped to support a large range of non corporate (non-standard) devices. It’s time to get creative with your support teams or your outsourcing support provider.
  • The employee needs to understand how much and what type of support you will provide for their device. Are their situations when they should contact the manufacturer instead of corporate support.
  • Unisys expects companies will experience a four-fold increase  in transaction load with the introduction of these consumer devices and applications. What would that do to your cost model?
  • Modernize your IT portfolio to more closely match the computing experience your employees are accustomed to. Is it time to start evaluating a corporate tablet? What about WIFI everywhere so employees can connect their devices to the internet and “get work done”? How do you feel about allowing Facebook and Twitter in?
  • Setup an employee advisory committee to learn what they want, how they want it and also what they don’t want. Use this group to test different scenarios.
  • Pilot…pilot…pilot…. Whatever you come up with should be testing with a pilot group. Start will a small group of power users and then slowly grow the group to less technical users. Iron out all of the kinks.

You need clear and concise policies employees can easily find and understand. Your policies should clearly explain:

  • Which devices your support
  • The process to add new devices to the supported list (and associated lead time)
  • Which consumer applications are authorized for use
  • Which consumer applications are forbidden for use (and it is good practice to explain why)
  • The process to have new apps added to the authorized list.

 And last but not least, GOOD LUCK CHUCK! It will not be easy but the effort will be worthwhile. Use your network of contacts to "get a feel" for what other companies are doing and how you can leverage this information.