Ten Reasons Why You Can’t Ignore Consumerization

Disruptive IT Trends4 minutes readJun 13th, 2010
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Good morning, my fellow CIOs. It’s 10:30 on a weekday morning. Do you know what the business people in your company are up to? They’ve been pretty quiet lately, not making much of a fuss over that backlog of system enhancements they used to bug you about. It’s kind of nice.

But maybe someone from IT should go out and see what’s happening. The fact that it’s been so quiet might be a mixed blessing. Business people’s needs certainly haven’t gone away, and all the talk about data security and regulatory compliance hasn’t changed the urgency people feel about getting things done.

That brings me to reason #1 not to ignore the consumerization of IT: business has become so competitive and fast-paced. Consumer IT provides hundreds of products, from social media to software-as-a-service offerings to mobile apps that can be quickly employed, all of which address changing business needs.

Businesses also need new ways to communicate with customers and prospects to find out what they want. That’s reason #2 to use consumer IT: It’s what your customers are increasingly using in their personal lives. What better way is there for companies to contact them, serve them, sell them, and learn about new things they’d like to see and do?

Reason #3 not to ignore consumer IT? People aren’t using services like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, and devices such as iPhones and iPads solely in their personal lives. They’re starting to use them in business and for business too, whether they are officially supported or not. They are doing what they feel they can do, what they have to do, and they are not always asking (or actively avoiding asking) permission from IT.

Companies have to make money, not just save money. And people are focused like never before on revenue-generating activities, such as sales, marketing, and product development. And therein rests reason #4 for using consumer IT: It provides cost-effective applications that can be combined (read: integrated using Web services) as needed to support the unstructured and hard-to-define workflows associated with these types of activities.

Revenue-generating activities change more often now, because product lifecycles are becoming shorter. That’s why systems to support them are being created by business people who combine (read: mash up) various consumer IT applications to meet their needs (read: needs unmet by their company IT department). Reason #5 for IT groups to get involved is that even though business people can get started on their own, these systems can become unwieldy as they grow. They can also weaken enterprise security. It’s better if IT professionals get involved early on in the design, building, and policy processes.

Reason #6 to employ consumer IT: Companies need to switch from “cap ex” to “op ex.” In times of uncertainty and rapid change, like now, it’s risky to incur big, up-front capital expenses to build new systems. Harnessing consumer IT lets companies take a pay-as-you-go approach. They invest smaller amounts up front to get started, and then pay for system use out of operating expense budgets. Finance people like that.

They also like reason #7 for using consumer IT, because its pay-as-you-go cost model lets companies manage financial risk while quickly deploying systems to explore new opportunities. If things work out, systems can be scaled up. If things don’t work out, companies can walk away without leaving large sunk costs behind. This, my friends, makes business agility possible.

Nobody listens to sales people who can’t sell, or operations people who can’t deliver products, so why should anybody listen to IT people who can’t provide new systems in a timely manner? And that brings up reason #8 to embrace consumer IT: It supports IT agility. Skillful use of consumer IT will soon be mission-critical for agile development of many new applications.

Consumer IT will increasingly provide the user interface for corporate application systems. In this way businesses can make applications available to people anywhere, at any time of day. IT groups avoid the cost of developing custom user interfaces, and can focus their time instead on developing business logic and company-specific apps that provide competitive advantages. That’s reason #9 for capitalizing on consumer IT.

And finally, reason #10 for recognizing consumer IT is that all indications point to an accelerating pace of change over the next three years. Successful IT groups will learn to create system infrastructures that give them the functional and financial flexibility they need to continuously respond to changing situations.

Consumer IT will be an indispensable part of the future of corporate IT. You need to understand and embrace it to remain indispensable, too.