Why it’s OK to be Skeptical About the Consumerization of IT

Disruptive IT Trends6 minutes readJun 13th, 2010
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If blogging is about transparency, then I’m about to do some serious blogging. I’ll apologize in advance to our marketing team that has worked tirelessly over many months to perfect their people-powered enterprise campaign for global IT, because I am about to poke some holes in it. And I’ll also apologize to our sales team in the field, because I’m hoping readers will take notes.

As CTO of Unisys, I see and experience the world much as our customers do. I am facing the same business, financial, and technical challenges that the CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, and other IT executives wrestle with every day.

I am surrounded by some of the world’s best and brightest technology advisers in security, data center transformation, application modernization, and end-user support–expertise that spans the enterprise IT spectrum. But that doesn’t mean the issues pressuring everyone in the industry magically go away for Unisys.

In fact, one of the reasons I believe our counsel is effective is because we live and breathe the same problems we solve for clients in the private and public sectors. So when the marketing team first showed me the IDC consumer trends and business gap research and analysis, I reacted as I suspect most CTOs do when a vendor presents data: with interest and skepticism.

The IDC report [link] on the consumer trend opens with a bold assertion: there is a revolution transforming the enterprise, being led by increasingly mobile consumers buying their own devices and apps, communicating and collaborating in the cloud, and often doing so beyond the reach of IT governance.

Essentially all U.S. respondents said they use at least one self-purchased device in the course of their work (the actual number is 99 percent). The average U.S. respondent is using four consumer devices for work chart link, and 63 percent ck of respondents bought and configured the devices themselves.

Another chart signals that self-purchased consumer tech is boosting productivity, because people are connected and working in the cloud wherever they are. Indeed, 42 percent of U.S. respondents said they work in bed, 49 percent work on vacation, 32 percent at restaurants, 57 percent during meetings, and 32 percent at family gatherings. OMG, 9 percent said they work during religious services. (Cue lightning.)

Longer hours, more output. Fair enough. But I’ve already given our people laptops and smartphones. I’ve already made them mobile. So why do I have to support their personal favorite trendy device, or allow them to connect their own devices, in order to be mobile? If they want to spend their own money on a cool device, that’s great. The business saves the acquisition cost of the device, apps, and support. Sounds like a win-win. I’m doing more with less.

I also don’t know that organizations necessarily believe their people are being more productive simply because they’re hooking up their iPad or iPhone or Android to the corporate system, or using Google Docs to collaborate instead of SharePoint via the extranet. I for one am not going to support a new device or app at Unisys unless I believe it’s going to add value to the organization, and provide the security, manageability, and integration we require to uphold service levels and meet real business objectives.

Moreover, if I now have to start supporting a bumper crop of trendy new devices and apps–and they are multiplying like rabbits–that’s complexity that adds to my cost. And that flies in the face of standardization, which we embraced to lower the cost of supporting worldwide mobile devices and apps.

So if I’m a corporate buyer and I’m trying to understand the implications of the people-powered enterprise, these are the kinds of questions that are wrapping around in the back of my mind. I need to understand more than “this is happening, its growing fast, your people love it, but your org isn’t ready.”

I need to understand how adapting my IT organization to support this trend will save Unisys money, provide higher service levels to customers and partners, attract new talent, and outpace my competition. Those are the types of questions I asked our marketing team. And they had some pretty good answers that I think you will want to hear.

So please keep your eyes and ears on this blog, which is focused on exploring the trend; the issues; and the challengers, risks, and rewards arising from the people-powered enterprise movement. It is covering one of those moments in time when IT turns a corner to reveal a future that looks very different from what we’re accustomed to.

We can close our eyes to this future. We can be bowled over by it. We can miss it. Or we can prepare for and capitalize on it. I’m opting for the latter. I have the enjoyed the benefit of seeing this research well in advance, as well as watching the movement grow organically within Unisys and the organizations we serve. I have been working with colleagues across our company to shape how we adapt, and develop what we advise.

This critical thinking has led to the development of new policies, practices, partnerships, and services that you will be hearing about in the coming months–processes we are already using internally to harness the cost-saving and productivity benefits of the people-powered enterprise.

One example: We invested about a year to develop a plan that capitalized on social media for recruiting. Recently deployed, it has saved $1 million in recruiting costs to date. We’ll have a podcast and a presentation on what we did, how we did it, and why in a future post.

we could put another example here

Still another example: This blog, a broadly coordinated cross-company stake in the blogosphere, which we are approaching not as a marketing effort, but as contemporary brand journalism, to give you insight into how we are harnessing the power of our people, and how those experiences and learnings can help you do the same.

There will be challenges. There are hard policy decisions that need to be made. What are the uses for social networking? How are you going to put security in place so you can control, or at least monitor what information is going out? Who owns the data? What’s your data segmentation protocol? How do you standardize in an emerging, chaotic technology marketplace? How do you measure productivity? How to you qualify the cost/benefit?

These are the questions CIOs are wrestling with right now. And these are the questions we are thinking about, and will be sharing our best answers to, here.