“Fifteen years ago, enterprise technology was higher-quality than consumer technology. That’s not true anymore. It used to be that you used enterprise technology because you wanted uptime, security and speed. None of those things are as good in those things are as good in enterprise software anymore [as they are in some consumer software]. The biggest thing to ask is, «When consumer software is useful, how can I use it to get costs out of my environment?».” This was the answer of Douglas Merrill, then Google’s CIO, in a Wall Street Journal interview in March 2008. Merril was referring what is known as consumerization of IT. This term was first introduced 10 years ago by Douglas Neal of CSC’s Leading Edge Forum. Since then, consumerization has created a lot of tension inside corporations. To the extent, that Gartner issued a report in 2007 called “Consumerization Gains Momentum: The IT Civil War”.
According to Gartner, there are three factors driving the consumerization of IT. First, the availability of low-cost and easy-to-use devices, such as the new generation of smartphones and tablets. Second, an affordable ubiquitous and pervasive communications infrastructure. And last but not least, an explosion of content in the form of information, entertainment, services and applications. These three factors combined challenges the traditional assumptions of technology scarcity and the standardization managed by enterprise IT departments. For instance, in a recent survey conducted by IDC on behalf of Unisys stated that 95% of the workers who responded have used technology they purchased themselves for work (e.g., iPhones, laptops, GPS, PC Cameras, etc.).
In 2010, consumerization was the new technology trend of most concern for IT managers according to a recent Forrester report, where 46% of enterprises noted their concerns about smartphones, and 38% were concerned about Web 2.0 technologies. These concerns are deeply rooted in the different meaning of risk by the business and IT side of organizations. On the business side, risk equals to opportunity and maximizing values related to human dynamics. However, on the IT side, risk is perceived as a threat related to machine dynamics. CSC’s Leading Edge Forum proposes a framework (see diagram) to re-think risk as the intersection of business and IT to ensure that the IT governance is aligned with both of them. In the past, we could make the assumption that the majority of employees had little IT knowledge. In that scenario, it does not make sense to transfer a high degree of IT choice and responsibility to the employee. Therefore, the role of corporate IT was mitigating the risk by limiting the IT choice and responsibility on the employee. However, as millennials are entering in the workforce, the pressure for consumerization will continue increasing. Boundaries between what is personal and what is business are disappearing. The new generation of employees are digital natives, with a high IT knowledge, used to a world where anything can be accessed anywhere and anytime. They do not want to wok behind the corporate firewall to mitigate the risk. More often than not, they find ways to overcome the limitations that IT is imposing on them.
As a matter of fact, consumerization is not only about the use of a certain type of technology but also reflects millennials aspirations to participate and contribute in global (virtual) communities to be more productive, which at the same time is changing current matrix organizations into a new networked organizations. In these organizations, there are changes occurring both in IT ownership and use. In addition, the consumerization of IT benefits also from the economies of scale we associated to the mobile industry, cloud computing and applications stores. In other words, bring your own device translates not only in a fashion trend but into a progressive commoditization of corporate IT, where workers will consume IT like another home utility: “Work Sweet Home”.