The consumerization of IT: overview and evolutions

The consumerization of IT has a significant impact on business as “consumers”, who are also “employees”, get used to a certain degree of ease-of-use, choice, freedom, flexibility and user experiences towards the applications they use at work too. There are many drivers in the consumerization of IT: from the cloud to mobile and beyond.

Other drivers of the consumerization of IT:

  1. The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOx phenomenon (with x, being everything, apps included).
  2. The use of consumer-oriented social media, social networks and social communications platforms in the workplace.
  3. The adoption of consumer-oriented cloud applications enabling file sharing, storage, etc.

Consumer tools in the enterprise - 2014 Consumerization of IT in the enterprise report by IDG Enterprise - on Scribd and embedded below
Consumer tools in the enterprise – 2014 Consumerization of IT in the enterprise report by IDG Enterpriseon Scribd and embedded below

It’s not the first time that the adoption of digital tools and platforms by people for work purposes has led to challenges and/or opportunities for businesses.

Two examples:

  1. When USB sticks, notebooks and external storage devices hit the market, this led to new security risks and challenges.
  2. When the first mobile devices and mobile CRM applications popped up, field representatives were better equipped to do their job.

The consumerization of IT defined

In these and other cases, there are always benefits and challenges.

Gartner defines consumerization as “the specific impact that consumer-originated technologies can have on enterprises. It reflects how enterprises will be affected by, and can take advantage of, new technologies and models that originate and develop in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise IT sector”.

IDG Enterprise defines the consumerization of IT as “the propensity for users’ experiences with technology as consumers to impact their expectations regarding their technology experiences at work”.

In plain English: the technologies, devices, behavior, expectations that people like you and me use/have, are shifting, offering both challenges and opportunities for business in general and IT specifically. The consumerization of IT is not some hype, it’s a phenomenon that can’t be stopped and businesses need to deal with it and turn it into benefits.

On the other hand, the consumerization of IT and related phenomena such as BYOD, doesn’t mean organizations don’t have to take measures and let everything just happen of course. It all depends on the context, how business-critical applications are, what can and cannot sit outside of the corporate firewall, how workers use the devices and apps they know – and expect in business apps too – in productive and secure ways, and so much more.

BYOD and BYOx: the need for corporate speed

BYOD, short for Bring Your Own Device, is an acronym used to describe a digital business evolution, powered by people, specifically in their role as employees. When employees bring personal digital devices to work (BYOD) or use them for work purposes this obviously has consequences.

The BYOD evolution is an essential part of what the consumerizaton of IT. With people using ever more digital channels, apps, tools and devices, IT managers, CIOs and other managers are confronted with potential benefits and challenges/risks. The fast pace at which people embrace social media, cloud apps, mobile, etc. has forced organizations to take measures on different levels and they respond – in sometimes very different ways.

With BYOD now moving to BYOX(x) as some call it (Bring Your Own Everything) whereby the focus shifts from devices to data, apps, etc., the challenges and potential benefits reach even further. Organizations that recognized the benefits of BYOD and/or drafted BYOD policies and strategies early on, are seeing several positive outcomes as research shows. Yet, there are also risks, security being a crucial one (and thus also costs, legal issues, potential breaches, employees that ignore BYOD policies if those exist at all, a lack of understanding of the security risks specific apps can cause, etc.).

Organizations that were late to implement or still need to have a BYOD strategy, are under pressure to act fast as ever more consequences of the BYOD evolution start showing, including the creation of personal content silos. BYOD is one of many emanations of the movement towards a more integrated digital business where technologies have disruptive effects on various business functions, operational, strategic and technological layers and, most of all, the optimization of business, innovation and collaboration.

BYOD is a broad subject that will keep the digital business engaged for quite some years to come. The list of pros, cons and research is long. There is no universal best BYOD strategy as each organization lives and works in another context. Furthermore, the employees play an essential role too – pretty obvious.

Research regarding BYOD and the consumerization of IT

Current Analysys: 2013 is the year of BYOD and MDM.

In 2013, Current Analysis Senior Analyst Gary Barton looked at the adoption of mobile devices and called 2013 the year of BYOD and MDM. In the UK, he wrote, 56% of the population has access to a smartphone and “a whopping” 21% to a tablet. In other regions these numbers are even higher and given the fast adoption of mobile devices and the growth of BYOD, the conclusions are clear and are confirmed by our own and other research in the meantime: 2013 indeed seems to be the year of BYOD and MDM. Or better: the year when we can’t ignore BYOD anymore. Read Gary’s blog here.

BT and Cisco research: IT managers are convinced a BYOD policy offers a competitive advantage

The 2013 ‘Beyond Your Device’ research by BT Global Services (a partner) and Cisco (see SlideShare below) depicted a BYOD reality that differs a lot depending on the region and function of respondents (workers versus managers). Overall, 48% of employees say their employers allow them to connect personally-owned devices to the corporate network, which is actually less than in 2012. In some countries this percentage is significantly higher. In India, for instance, 71% of respondents is allowed to connect personal devices and in China even 88%.

On the other hand, the research found an overwhelming positivity among IT managers and employees. 84% of IT managers also thinks that adopting a BYOD policy confers a competitive advantage, in the US this is even the case for 90% of IT managers. 61% of IT decision makers believed the rise of BYOD heralds the move to a new model of IT where barriers between the individual and workplace dissolve and everything is linked together by the corporate network.

Ovum: 68% of full-time employees BYOD

Ovum’s 2013 BYOD survey (also in collaboration with BT) found a staggering 68% of full-time employees with a personal smartphone use it to access corporate data. Furthermore, the survey identified high-growth markets as being most likely to BYOD.

Ovum clearly confirms BYOD is not an option as other research mentioned on this page does. Organizations are adviced to implement a BYOD policy fast as the mentioned 68% of full-time employees using a personal smartphone to access corporate data do so whether their employer has a BYOD policy in place or not.

Forrester: the rapid growth of using mobile devices for bandwidth-intensive visual content such as video

The rapid evolutions in BYOD are not just about mobile device usage percentages but also about what we do with those devices. Forrester clearly shows how the evolving ways mobile devices are used have a strong impact on the enterprise network in the age of BYOD. Furthermore, there is also an evolution towards multifunction device consumer adoption.

Forrester found 71% of smartphone owners in the US take photos/videos with their smartphones and 34% uploads them to the Internet. And we’re just at the beginning of this mobile video boom.

McKinsey: strong demand from employees to support mobile device variety

End 2012, a CIO survey by McKinsey affirmed the mobile invasion of enterprise IT was coming fast. The poll found that a whopping 30% of CIOs believed laptops could be replaced by tablets in the coming years. Furthermore, demand for a BYOD policy is high. 56% of respondents reported strong demand for employees to support a wide range of mobile devices.