A current hot topic is the "consumerization of ICT", where the consumer receives -- or claims -- a more prominent place in the corporate ICT. This is not entirely surprising, given the fact that our lives are becoming increasingly more digital: almost everybody has a modern computer at home, and very often, these consumer devices are more modern, up-to-date, more powerful and with a much stronger integration with other (consumer) devices than the enterprise workplace. How long have you been using Windows 7 at home? And at work?
With more and more tech savvy people, the "magic" of ICT disappears and people get very well accustomed with the possibilities of ICT equipment. Furthermore, the abundance of consumer oriented cloud services (such as SkyDrive, iCloud, Hotmail, Gmail, Dropbox, Box.net, … ) -- which allow consumers to access their applications and data anywhere, anytime and on any device -- only raise the expectations for the corporate ICT department.
There is no formal definition of the "consumerization of ICT". At Xylos, we usually focus on two aspects that this terminology covers when we talk to our customers:
- The consumer brings their own applications and devices to work (driver: mobile devices)
The employee often uses a personal set of applications and devices to organize their private lives. Typical examples are smartphones and tablets, but also devices such as netbooks or MacBook laptops. Customer satisfaction is very high with these devices: they have interesting form factors, are light to carry around, are often fully operational in a matter of seconds and "they just work"". This high degree of satisfaction in the personal life drives the conviction of the employee that these devices can also be used productively in a corporate environment (and they might very well be right!). This introduces pressure on the ICT department to allow consumer devices and consumer applications in the corporate environment.
This trend is certainly not new: Citrix has been advocating a "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) approach for years already and mobile devices have also existed for a long time already. Two factors are very likely responsible for the sudden rise in consumer interest: first, there is the more widestream adoption of "intelligent" mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets (one market segment driven by cost, the more expensive market segment driven by appeal and design). Secondly, the advent of useful apps on these intelligent devices and certainly equally important: the great ease at which these apps can be acquired through consumer appstores. In that sense, the Bring-Your-Own-Device trend should more aptly be renamed to the "Bring-Your-Own-App" trend.
- The end-user/business unit acts as a consumer (driver: cloud computing)
With the availability of cheap & easy-to-purchase cloud based solutions, the times where the internal ICT solutions were considered to be the only viable options, are now behind us. End-users become consumers of ICT services, in the sense that "shopping around" for a solution online is becoming more and more a reality. The fact that the service becomes available in the time required to process a credit card payment, is often very attractive to business users who need to react fast in a volatile market. Many of our customers have already indicated they are confronted by end-users who are familiar with cloud-based solutions (often through so-called "freemium" models – where the solution is free for private use and becomes paying for commercial use). Others have already indicated they discovered such solutions being used by the business without knowledge of the internal ICT department; this leads to a so-called "shadow IT". In that sense, the ICT department needs to compete with public cloud offerings when it comes to service levels & speed of delivery. Very often, the match in functionality for the business users only needs to be "good enough" to be completely convinced by the agility offered by cloud solutions.
Both of these aspects provide new challenges for corporate IT departments. The answer to consumerization of IT consists mainly out of a strategy to deal with consumer-oriented devices and applications, and only in the second place of technology. After all, considering the tremendous speed at which innovations happen in the mobile market, it is nearly impossible to follow the evolution in detail – therefore, we highly recommend to first start by providing end-users/consumers with a clear policy on what type of devices are allowed to consume what enterprise services & information.
If you are interested in hearing more about Xylos' strategy for consumerization of IT and what tools can be used to implement that strategy, then be sure to register for our seminar Consumerization of IT, which will be organized on 7th of June 2012!