For the past four years or so, the IT department has faced a significant period of change. For the first time, users have dictated what devices they want to use in the workplace and the IT department (begrudgingly) has had to oblige.
Historically most workers in an organisation were equipped with identical PCs. Typically those same workers would own and use the same or a similar device at home. Today, the consumer market is flooded with a variety of alternative devices, which are increasingly affordable to the average user. The ‘one family one PC’ at home has been replaced by multiple family members owning multiple devices leading to an assortment of laptops, tablet computers, smartphones, smart TVs and networked consoles – and these devices are finding their way into the workplace.
There are plenty of reasons why users would want to use their own devices at work, and plenty of reasons why they should be allowed to as well. Increased productivity is the biggest potential benefit. Employees are no longer willing to give an enterprise ‘a pass’ for poor service or performance. Instead they want to be able to use technology that is just as easy to use and intuitive as their personal devices they use at home. This consumerisation of IT has caused a huge headache for the IT department that, behind the scenes is working away feverishly in order to protect corporate data and intellectual property, and ensure compliance.
Defining the consumerisation of IT
IT consumerisation is not new and according to analyst firm Gartner, it will be a significant trend over the next 10 years. Often misinterpreted, consumerisation should not be defined as workers wanting to use their iPhone for business purposes. Nor should it be interpreted as a catch phrase encompassing the disruptive impacts of the new technologies on corporate infrastructures, practices and mindsets. Rather, it should be acknowledged as a complete technology shift. Employees’ views and needs should be listened to and a formal business policy/solution implemented. Once a policy is in place, the benefits of break-through thinking, value-creating innovation and calculated risks will quickly follow. In today’s economy, these have never been more important.
Abolishing out-of-date IT policies
A major contributing factor in the growth of this trend is the increasing mobility of the workforce, which has blurred the boundaries between personal and business lives. Relying on technology that allows them to work or play anywhere at anytime is taken for granted. Users already have access to the digital riches of SoMoClo (social, mobile, cloud) in their personal lives, so why not at work?
The technology industry is all about time. How long things take, how long they last, how long it takes to learn a new skill, and when it is time to walk-away from long-held skill sets. Time-to-mastery, time-to-obsolescence, time-to-fix, and time-to-deploy have become critical dials on the CIO success-o-meter.
Historically, the IT department would hold total control over the technologies available to the business. However, the CIO now has a larger part to play in the business process. The key role of the next-generation CIOs will be in understanding next-generation workers – where they work, when they work, how they work and what they need/want to do their work.
Until recently, the thinking on this issue from management has tended to fall into one of three camps. Some have taken a relaxed approach, where users have been allowed to access their emails, documents and other work files from their own device. Others have enforced a strict lockdown with stringent policies to prevent employees using anything other than work-supplied devices for work-related activity. The third camp has chosen to sit back and see what other businesses do before they decide what’s the best option for them. A recent survey conducted by AIIM, the global community of information professionals, discovered that organisations taking a softly-softly, wait-and-see approach to consumerisation could miss out on the productivity, efficiency and cost-saving benefits on offer.
According to AIIM, the consequences of organisations failing to pro-actively develop and aggressively implement modern IT innovations such as BYOD, mobile IT and social media could be significant and long-term. Organisations need to recognise that a new generation is entering the workforce. By 2014, 36% of the workforce will be comprised of millennials (defined as the young adults born between 1976 and 2001). By 2020, millennials will comprise 46% of all workers. These workers are bringing different expectations about work/life balance into the workplace. Organisations need to take advantage of the second nature use of technology these workers bring to the office by focusing on how people are getting work done, not just what devices they are using. Companies need to think hard about how to use technology to enable organisation around work rather than organising work around technology. The report suggests that too much caution and fear could set many organisations back in terms of competitiveness and, ultimately, have a knock-on effect on the UK economy.
The research concludes that the winners will be those who can capitalise on these strategies the quickest. Executives need to think deeply about IT consumerisation and its impact on the enterprise and the future of the workplace. Consumerisation of IT is a complex, multi-faceted issue, which cannot be ignored, and requires delicacy, intensity and leadership. Most would agree that enterprise IT is not in a position to dictate how fast or how slow the world of technology operates. AIIM’s industry report provides six salient tips for IT managers and CIOs:
1. Enterprise IT needs to change its mental mode – from one of ‘complete control’ to one of ‘leverage and enable’
2. Understand evolving information users and usage – focus on how people get the work done, not just what devices they are using. Companies need to think hard about how to use technology to enable its organisation around work rather than organising work around technology
3. Acknowledge information user needs – listen to your users: give them what they want. Typically they want better and faster access to information, in a way that is useful and in a format they are familiar with
4. Anticipate future use and align with enterprise goals – technology is an enabler of business goals, although not a goal in itself. Identify your business goals and strategies and match the technology to achieve those goals. Best-in-class technology is great: technology that fits your business goals is even better
5. Shape the technology you use – work with your suppliers to ensure products meet your information user needs. Switch from a device to a consumer focus
6. Expand CIO roles and thinking – CIOs need to shift their mindset from a focus primarily on ‘produce results’ and ‘administer systems’ to also include focusing on ‘integration’ and ‘entrepreneur’
To conclude, with the consumerisation of IT, the sea change in expectations being placed on IT staff is real and irreversible. Organisations must seize the opportunity as soon as they can or risk falling behind their competitors in the race for success.
For a copy of the research findings report please visit: http://pages2.aiim.org/Cchange-impact-of-consumerization-of-IT.html <http://pages2.aiim.org/Cchange-impact-of-consumerization-of-IT.html>
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