IT's 6-step guide to adopting consumerization

Most businesses are accepting, even embracing, consumer technology. What do they know that you don't?

If your IT department is resisting the "consumerization" trend, it's in the minority. Recent research shows that most enterprises are proactively addressing this trend and the new relationship between IT and users that often accompanies a consumer IT strategy. What do they know that you don't?

Many of the fears regularly expressed by some technology and business executives -- often related to information security in the mobile environment -- can be effectively addressed through technology and policy.

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A recent survey by the consultancy Avanade found that 60 percent of the companies are adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employee's personal devices, rather than restricting use of such devices. Also, 91 percent of the executives say their IT department has the staff and resources needed to manage the use of consumer technologies. In that environment, resistance really is futile.

As your organization moves to consumer-based technologies such as tablets and smartphones, cloud services, a mix of PCs and Macs, and social networking, here are critical practices to help create the right environment to make both IT and the business happy.

Consumerization step 1: Create a culture that welcomes consumer tech

How can your organization ensure it gets the most out of consumerization and users have the freedom they need while at the same time maintaining appropriate control?

Perhaps the first move the organization needs to make is adjust its cultural orientation and attitudes from one of zero tolerance on consumer technologies to one of intellectual curiosity and business opportunity, says Frank Petersmark, former CIO of Amerisure and now a CIO advocate at the consulting firm X by 2.

Instead of automatically frowning on, say, employees bringing their own devices to work, you might think about how best to leverage this new technology and the processes that come with it for better customer service, improved profitability, or increased productivity, Petersmark says. An organization's ingrained culture is probably one of the biggest inhibitors to effectively and sensibly leveraging the opportunities presented by technology consumerization.

Part of the cultural change is getting IT out of the mind-set that only technology people can make technology choices.

For example, the IT team at the Austin (Texas) Convention Center had a hard time accepting that consumer products such as iPads would be suitable for use in its business environment, says Joe Gonzales, IT services manager. "In our organization, there is this perception that if a product didn't get ordered from our Dell Premier page, then it's not good enough to use in the enterprise."

First, the center had to get to a way of thinking that the objective is to give employees productivity tools, and it doesn't matter if these tools are considered business IT or consumer IT. Now, it uses iPads to deliver service-order information to its employees on the show floor, and about 50 employees are using their own smartphones to access email and calendar information.

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