The last 24 months have brought an explosion of new devices, Web applications and social-media platforms. Chief information officers (CIOs) are under pressure from other employees, including senior executives, to open corporate networks to consumer devices and allow access to more of the Web. This migration of consumer devices like smart phones and tablets into enterprise computing is making CIOs very nervous.
The risks to data security are obvious and real, and the loss of control – compared to the days when IT departments could pick and choose technologies – is distressing.
Why is this evolutionary process inevitable? There are five trends that have brought us to what I see as a point of no return on consumerisation.
1. The rise of social media as a business application.
For knowledge workers, social networks have become necessary and ideal tools for building work relationships and conducting business. For example, Dell has employed Salesforce.com’s Chatter for more than 90,000 Dell employees. Being able to follow opportunities is a key feature of this application, so social connections literally mean sales connections.
2. The blurring of work and home.
According to a telecommuting forecast by Forrester, 41 per cent of employers plan to implement telecommuting options this year and 43 per cent of the American workforce – more than 63 million workers – will telecommute occasionally by 2016. IT departments need to develop policies to deliver and secure sensitive data on both IT-owned and employee-owned devices.
3. The emergence of new mobile devices.
The mobile era has arrived. By next year global smart-phone shipments will exceed personal-computer shipments for the first time in history. In the wake of such a seismic shift, employees are showing up at work with their personal devices with increasing frequency
4. Shifting business models require tech-savvy employees.
According to McKinsey and Company, “word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 per cent of all purchasing decisions.”
5. Employee expectations of corporate IT are changing.
Desirable applicants don’t want to give up their devices, weakening the recruitment and retention abilities of companies who refuse to accommodate them.
As these trends collide, consumerisation moves from being something we have talked about for years to a crucial business decision.
Today’s consumerisation trends are yet to peak. Businesses that react thoughtfully and decisively now will reap benefits for the rest of the mobile era and beyond.
Articulate your company’s end-user workplace and technology philosophy and use that as a basis for setting a consumerisation strategy. Recognise that IT-security and data-protection policies that restrict the use of personal devices and social-media applications may actually increase security and data-loss risks.
Liberalise rules that prohibit business use of employee-owned technology in your own environment, starting with smart phones. Launch enterprise applications that mimic the best aspects of consumer communication and social media within your worker community.
Develop a business case for incremental investment by linking end-user technology strategy with human-resource planning, facilities planning and business strategy. Consider desktop virtualisation and other new technologies to reduce security and data-loss risks as the demand for consumerisation grows. Confront the software-licensing implications of consumerisation to ensure compliance. Finally, avoid end-user stipends; the goal is to allow employees to use the devices they already prefer, not to shift purchasing decisions on to them.
The heart of the consumerisation trend is human desire; people want to work the way they live, using the Internet to facilitate relationships and communication. It’s also the foundation for the next wave of business.
Companies that adapt quickly and thoughtfully to change the relationship between employees and the IT department will be better able to attract talent, execute new business models and enhance competitiveness. So why fight it?