If discussions in forums, LinkedIN groups and on Twitter around the Consumerisation of IT trend are anything to go by, then there is increasing interest in this subject. We’re trying to keep a log of these articles as they get published in the following LinkedIN group: Consumerisation of IT please feel free to join and contribute.
One particularly interesting aspect is the various definitions that are being applied to the interpretation of the trend. To some it’s about BYOD, to others Cloud services, Consumer Software or collaboration tools and of course a number of things in between.
From the articles and research I’ve read, the commonly used definition is around the intersection of three external factors; the adoption of Cloud Services, the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and consumer software with an internal drive towards increased collaboration (often coined as Social Enterprise or Social Business).
Technology and culture collide
None of these trends are new in isolation, we’ve been on this collision course for 10 years, but perhaps two important factors have now brought them together:
The answer for many then is to find new ways of collaborating based upon social media techniques. The combined use of status updates, blogging, IM, file sharing (including video) is being seen as one approach. Add into this content management for file version control and there is a solution... albeit a cultural shift to adopting these technologies is seen as the biggest hurdle.
On the flip side, the new generation of workers often have limited experience of email anyway but an extensive understanding of social media practices. The challenge for IT then is more around creating the right environment for this collaboration to take place, the increased use of consumer software such as Skype and Dropbox is typically caused by user frustration to get a job done quickly, and easily, rather than understanding the security risk this can pose. This also creates business risk for auditing, compliance and content archiving.
2. Timing - The current climate of business uncertainty as a consequence of rumbles in global economic markets is creating pressure at the board level. History has often taught us that some of greatest innovations and business models have been generated as a consequence of human ingenuity at times of crisis. It's often the case they are not new theories, but their adoption is accelerated in a bid to become more productive, more efficient and ultimately more profitable.
Strategic role for IT groups
But is business strategy failing to give direction to IT? And how should we set the context for dealing with Consumerisation of IT and its impact to the business? A possible interpretation is to summarise a Protiviti assessment of 2012’s major business challenges into four categories:
Big Data & Analytics – Hardly a new topic, but in order to find levels of competitive differentiation companies are looking to mine all available data sources. The challenge for IT is that with the volume of unaudited data flowing in and out of organisations, the variety of data formats and the velocity of change with line of business managers subscribing to new cloud services, the extent of any proactive solution that creates business enablement is difficult to define.
Security & Compliance – The risk to organisations is growing in exponential ways from the endpoint devices or App firewall through to the core of the data centre. As we add increasingly complex layers to a network the notion of a start and end point for security policy becomes increasingly redundant. Perhaps the new mantra is for virtual-to-virtual instances. But this area has the opportunity to be compounded further by new legislation and compliance regulations generated at both an industry level such as in Finance or at a national government or EU level. Flexibility is therefore a critical path consideration.
Business Performance – Cost reduction measures which have driven most thinking in the last few years will eventually need to subside to investments in innovation. That’s not to suggest reckless change but structured programs that look to drive customer loyalty, competitive differentiation, growth and staff “talent” retention to maximise the momentum for growth. Often a limiting factor is the underlying constraints of a network burdened by legacy operating systems tying up too much maintenance costs.
Managing Diverse Risk - Supervision of the risk strategy and portfolio becomes significantly more complex due to increased volatility in commodity markets affecting the management of the supply chain. This is further compounded by the volatility of geo-political factors, along with the threat of mergers and acquisitions on both domestic and international fronts. Both network performance and security play pivotal roles in ensuring change can be effectively managed.
A fork in the road ahead
As business leaders wrestle with the myriad of changing parameters, at often unprecedented rates, IT leaders need to consider how to put in place strategies that enable much greater opportunities for business innovation.
A critical starting point is defining an holistic security policy that embraces change without creating organisational risk. If IT fails to act then the business will act in isolated, unilateral pockets. These acts will compound the myriad of cloud services, the adoption of consumer software by individual users (or groups of users) and the bypassing of existing security policies to gain access to local networks for personal devices.
Perhaps the main question should be; are line of business managers failing to set the right context for IT or is IT failing to embrace change to support the line of business?