The IT-ization of Consumers

March 6, 2013
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Consumers and ITThere continues to be a lot of discussion of the trend that’s sometimes called “consumerization of IT.” I think the trend is really about two things: changing expectations and the source of tech innovation.

Consumers and ITThere continues to be a lot of discussion of the trend that’s sometimes called “consumerization of IT.” I think the trend is really about two things: changing expectations and the source of tech innovation. That may be an oversimplification, but I think it at least captures the root of the trend that has led to things like BYOD, which is an acknowledgement by companies that are using it as a policy that employees feel very empowered to use devices that are of their choosing and support themselves; or that employees will work around IT if an IT-provided solution to a problem doesn’t meet their expectations or doesn’t exist by self-provisioning a consumer cloud-based solution that does solve the immediate business need. Consumerization is having a big impact on tech vendors as well as IT, as they scramble to provide user experience (UX) that matches the expectations created by consumer cloud-based solutions, to support multiple mobile device OS’s and form factors and to meet both the consumer expectations and the enterprise business requirements around security, compliance, governance, etc.

This year during our preparations for our annual predictions briefing we started to discuss the other half of this trend, the ITization of consumers. Now we didn’t coin the phrase, I did a quick Google search and found that several bloggers and analysts have used the term, although there doesn’t seem to be a uniform definition of it. What we’re really taking about is the natural inclination of trends to move to an extreme and due to the friction cause a counter-balancing trend to move both sides back toward the middle. We’re also talking about the source of the major tech forces that are a part of the shift to the third technology platform and how their interrelated nature helps move both enterprise and consumer back to an acceptable middle ground. That looks something like this:

bring your own device

Anyway, where this leads is to a new balanced or blended approach to enterprise IT, that takes the best of both worlds. We’re already seeing this in some leading apps like Box that originated with consumers but now has added the requisite level of security, integration capabilities, platform capabilities, etc. that make it a “enterprise” while keeping it’s consumer influenced UX including the ability to self-provision and so easy to use that employees support themselves. From an enterprise app perspective it won’t happen over night of course. There is a period of transition, maybe a long period actually. Changing the UX of traditional enterprise apps is not an easy proposition and for many companies core apps won’t be replaced for a long time, so for the transition period there will need to be some workaround. As I’ve said many times before, that workaround for many businesses will be the ESN, which forms a new UX for aging apps, at least for a large portion of the enterprise.

From a consumer app standpoint there are a number of things that are required to ITize the apps and make them enterprise ready. Generally I doubt that scalability is an issue for consumer cloud apps, as they already support large numbers of geographically diverse users. What is necessary though, is to meet enterprise security requirements, to accommodate enterprise governance and compliance needs and to provide higher levels of IP protection. That’s not to say that all consumer apps can’t meet this, it’s just that the apps “must” meet these requirements to be acceptable enterprise solutions over the long term.